Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Brecon Beacons Workshop 26/27 February

Composition in the landscape

Porthy Ogof cave entrance

"The workshop allowed me to gain a better understanding of how the shutter speed and aperture settings effect each picture I take. It also included information on ISO settings and how to take good pictures in different environments night or day. The scenery was breathtaking."
Richard Walsh

Exercise in composition and working in low light

Eight people joined me in Ystradfellte, Brecon Beacons, for a weekend landscape photography workshop.  

Seven of us; Helen, Viola, Neil, Martin, Craig, Richard and myself  arrived at the Caving Cottage on Friday evening and settled in for an evening of getting to know each other over a beer.   

Malcolm and Amanda arrived the next morning in time for breakfast.  We started early on Saturday morning with a lecture on composition in the landscape before heading out to a mountainous valley for the first photography session.   Despite the rain, everyone dived into  their assignment, some headed into forest, others photographed the stream flowing down the mountains, others looked at the rocks and trees.  As I walked across the landscape, to visit my students and discuss how they were progressing and help them to solve any problems they were experiencing, I could see tripods and colourful umbrellas dotting the rain swept landscape.  I was worried that the rain might spoil the session for them, but they each seemed engrossed in their photography and not worried about getting wet.

At lunch time we headed back to the cottage for lunch and a short discussion about photographing people in the landscape.  The sun had taken over from the rain and we headed up and over the mountains.  I had split my photography students into three groups and given them an assignment to do.  We stopped on top of a mountain to work on the portrait exercise for a while, then continued our walk over the mountains, stopping regularly to make use of the changing landscape and light.

Experimenting with using different shutter speeds and subject movement

By early evening we had reached the cave entrance of Porthy Ogof, where the River Mellte disappears underground.  Here we looked at the creative use of shutter speeds and composition.  Then it was back to the caving cottage to back up the days images.  Each person was asked to choose a maximum of six images from each of the two projects for viewing later in the evening.

Project - People in the landscape
The River Mellte.  (composition)
Creative camera controls
"A thoroughly enjoyable weekend which resulted in some photographs that I'm very happy with and a lot of knowledge stored away for future reference. Wish I'd done this course years ago! Thank you Annette."
Malcolm Stewart 

We headed off to the Dinas Rock Hotel, a short car journey from the cottage, for a two course meal.  Adrian, who runs the Dinas Rock, had laid nine places on a long table for us and was ready to serve the meal as soon as we arrived :-)

After the meal and all the plates had been cleared away, we looked at each person's selection of images on a large television screen, while enjoying an end of the day drink.  It was really interesting to see how differently each person had interpreted the assignments and the images sparked discussion and another learning opportunity for my students, who were starting to think about the landscape from a different perspective.  Then it was back to the Caving Cottage, a brief session of photographing the stars and a well earned sleep.

Creative Movement

Richard looking into Porthy Ogof cave
Exercise on People in the Landscape
"The landscape workshop was an excellent introduction to the art of taking great landscape photos, the projects we were given were well thought out in an easy to follow format that helped our understanding of composition, depth of field, lighting etc. Annette took us to some beautiful locations and really helped us get the most out of our equipment, then back to the classroom for some easy to understand theory and a chance to see all the great photos that we all took, thoroughly recommended."

Martin Shirley

Sunday morning we got up early, well ok, very early - about 5 am.  Bleary eyed students wrapped in coats and hats headed up the nearest mountain (which is just across the road from the cottage) with torches as there was no sign of day light yet.  Unfortunately the sky was cloudy and the magnificent sunrise we had been hoping for didn't happen and we all got a bit cold.  This was the least successful part of the workshop.

In day light we headed down the mountain for breakfast.  I gave a talk on the basic aspects of photography; 
starting with how a pin-hole camera works, 
then explaining how the choice of shutter speed affects both the look of the image - subject and camera movement, 
what the aperture is and how the choice of aperture affects the depth of field and its relationship to the shutter speed and exposure, 
understanding and using histograms, 
how the choice of A.S.A. setting affects the exposure and 'noise' and other techie things....  
A large part of the discussion was me answering questions and helping people to better understand thier cameras.  We also talked further about composition and ways of leading the viewer's eye through the picture to the most important element in the image.  

With the sun trying to come out, we headed off to Sgwd Isaf Clun-gwyn waterfalls on the River Mellte.  A really spectacular waterfall a few minutes drive from the cottage.  Getting down the steep bank to the waterfall was a challenge, but worth the effort.  I had given my students assignments to encourage them to experiment with their camera controls in a constructive way and further explore their ideas about how to compose and express their ideas and interpretation of the landscape through images.  

Mid afternoon we returned to the cottage for a final discussion and at about 5 pm we each began our long journey home.  

River Mellte - copyright Viola

"Annette I would like to give you a huge big THANK YOU. I've learned a lot, it was nice of you to keep an interest in what I was doing, as others were much more advanced in photography than I, I didn't feel left out or anything and still felt a part of group and had a great time. I've learned a lot and it was very nice of you to explain all the basic settings etc. I would love to do it again..but in summer as it was a bit cold in Feb :) Thank you."

River Mellte

"I just wanted to thank you for a great weekend’s photography – I learned quite a bit, it was fun, the participants were fun and I thought it was good that they were mixed ability, as I gained from their experience.

I was feeling pretty under-confident with myself on Saturday, but looking at everyone’s work that night, provided me with the impetus to get going and achieve something on the Sunday.

If you ever do any future courses please let me know."

Helen Stewart

To book onto a Brecon Beacons Photography Workshop please click here

Or if you prefer to attend a Workshop in London please click here

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