Landscape Photography and Prayers

It was great to have an old friend with us yesterday for a one-to-one photography course.


Eddie Dewhurst has been a regular on my courses for some years and this was the first time he has been to see me in our new how in Shropshire.


Above: Eddie hard at work taking landscape photographs in the Shropshire Hills

Eddie uses a Nikon D600 with a good range of lenses and he also likes to carry a Lumix compact - very sensible. His interests range from photographing his grandchildren to landscapes, interiors and close-ups of flowers.

photographer-kneeling-in-church-to=take photoAfter a good old chat about his work and a look though some of the beautiful prints he had brought along, we headed across the road from Martin's Hatch to photograph the old Norman Church

This lovely little church dates back to 1275 and is still in use today with a small, but active congregation. It is a joy to photograph - especially the interior on a day when the rain is coming down in torrents outside.

I think when he knelt in the aisle beside his tripod, Eddie was silently praying for good light and weather for our afternoon landscape photography.

After lunch we set off for the Long Mynd, in the Shropshire Hills, to take a look at some landscape ideas. We did manage to find some good, atmospheric pictures, but then the heavens opened again and we were forced to head back to base. Still, this gave us the opportunity to go through lots of the shots Eddie had taken during the day and for me to offer guidance and constructive critique.


We look forward to having Eddie with us again for another 121 photography course.


121 Photography in the Snow

It was great to have an old friend and photography student come for 121 photography tuition today. This was Mark Esling's first visit to me in our new home in Shropshire, and it could not have been better timed.

The sun shone, the sky was peppered with puffy clouds, and the fields and hills were covered in a layer of overnight snow- not a perfect spring day, but certainly one to please any keen landscape photographer.


It was an easy decision to set off as soon as he arrived at Martin's Hatch - straight up The Lawley and Caer Caradoc - local hills overlooking the magnificent Long Mynd range of hills here in Shropshire.

Marks was eager to put his panoramic film camera to good use with some landscape shots.

We finished off a perfect day with a visit to the ancient Norman church just across the street from us here in the village and I think Mark set off home very satisfied. I certainly enjoyed having him here.





Street Photography with narrative

There is a great deal more to Street Photography than walking about snapping general scenes in the street - which seems to be the present trend.

Street Photography - photograph by Philip Dunn for The Sunday Times
Street Photography - photograph by Philip Dunn for The Sunday Times

I have always believed that good Street Photography should have the capacity not only to capture the viewer's eye with interesting composition and subject matter, but it should go further. It should either tell a story immediately or have sufficient depth of narrative to trigger the viewer's imagination to make up their own interpretation of what is going on - or what might happen next.

I offer this photograph as an example. It was taken for The Sunday Times in Maastricht.

There is a bleakness about this photograph. The couple walk, head down as if deep in discussion. They do not hold hands, there is no 'togetherness', no intimacy, no joy in each other's company. There seems to be tension between the two people. The grey skies and the pigeons flying overhead only add to the 'wet Sunday' atmosphere. He is in military uniform - have they been parted for a long time? or are they about to part? 

The couple may be complete strangers, or they may be discussing a divorce. It does not matter - the fact is that viewers can make up any story they feel suits their own mood - and the mood of the picture.

Street Photography is one of the subjects I teach doing my one-to-one photography tuition - it is my favourite subject by far.

Independent Newspaper to Stop Printing

How very sad - the paper print version of The Independent Newspaper is to close.

I joined the Independent in 1986 - the year it was launched - after I resigned from the staff of The Daily Express that same year.

Every journalist and photographer involved with The Independent had a feeling that we were breaking new ground. We were. Photographs were placed right at the top of the editorial agenda.

One of hundreds of photographs taken by Philip Dunn for The Independent newspaper. This was a story about a working farm advertising for a wagoner
One of hundreds of photographs taken by Philip Dunn for The Independent newspaper. This was a story about a working farm advertising for a wagoner


Photographers were given the freedom to express themselves. I remember my first brief from the then picture editor Alan John. He said - " Come back with the picture that most matters to you - if that happens to be a piece of paper in the gutter, that's fine by me. Just make it special".

It was every photographer's dream job.

I had hundreds of photographs published in The Independent when it was a great newspaper. I was the first photographer to have a colour photograph published on its front page.

I would like to think that the same high standards that applied to the paper edition of The Independent might carry on in the digital version - somehow, I doubt it, but I wish them good fortune.



Photographing Reflections – Part Two

This two-part article by Philip Dunn first appeared in his column in Amateur Photographer Magazine.


Combine the reflections in a modern office block with a little human interest and it can be a winner


When we are taking photographs in town, reflected images seem to be everywhere we look, even more so in our modern cities with their glass-sided office towers. There are reflections in shop


windows, pools and puddles – even the polished paintwork of cars can reflect interesting images worth photographing.


These days architects have a fixation with shiny stainless steel surfaces – take a look at the outside Birmingham’s New Street Station, for instance – it’s a gift for photographers.


Intriguing contrasts can be created when these new shiny buildings reflect older architecture.



Perfectly still water can mirror buildings, people and landscape, but lightly rippled water can sometimes produce even more interesting photographs – back to those abstracts again.

Perfectly still water and the use of a polarising filter have intensified the mirror-like qualities of the reflections in this photograph

I try to persuade my students not to get too hung-up with the importance of depth of field, but it really is a vital factor to consider when photographing reflections, and, for maximum depth, the smallest appropriate aperture should be used. It is not just the object reflecting the image that needs to be in focus, but the reflection itself, which could be some distance away.

For maximum depth of field, focus on a spot about one third the way between the nearest (the reflector) and the furthest (the reflected images) points which need to be sharp. The depth of field preview button on your camera can be very useful for checking that everything will be in focus.

The rippled surface of the water has gently broken the reflected image of a power station building - creating an abstract effect



With most reflections, except those on metal surfaces, a polarising filter can intensify the colours and clarify the reflected image. It does this by removing indirect light reflections. In effect, the polarising filter removes the ‘film’ of reflected light from the surface of the reflector (the water surface), so increasing the clarity of the reflected image.

New – Animal Photo Gallery

I've just put up a new Photo Gallery.

This one has some of my animal photographs. I do not claim to be an animal photographer - photographing people is what I feel I do best - but I do have some animal pictures that have sold well.

Is it a kiss? Well maybe just a sniff. This photograph was taken as the sun went down in Yorkshire. It was one of those fleeting moments when the pictures just happened.

Go to Photo Gallery pages



Photographing Reflections – Part One

This two-part article by Philip Dunn first appeared in his column in Amateur Photographer Magazine.


The ‘reflection’ theme is a regular subject for camera club competitions – and rightly so. It’s a photographic theme that’s wide open to all sorts of imaginative interpretations - from the wildest abstract images to perfectly symmetrical mirrored landscape photographs.

This photograph was commissioned by the Sunday Times as part of a feature about Lincoln.This mirror was carefully positioned so that visitors to Lincoln cathedral could see the magnificent ceiling without craning their necks. I preferred to photograph the stained glass windows through it. I used a small aperture, f16, which meant I needed a slow shutter speed of 1/4sec. The camera was put on a tripod. Using the centre-weighted exposure mode, a light reading was taken from the window’s reflection, this has had the effect of darkening some areas of the interior of the cathedral – just the sort of contrast I wanted. Oh yes, the lady curate was asked to stand very still


With all these possibilities to photograph, it makes sense to have a sound understanding of the practical photo techniques that will enable you to get the most from every different photo opportunity.

For instance:

  • Focusing
  • Depth of Field
  • Light direction
  • Composition


Each of these can have a profound effect on your final photograph and contribute to its success – or failure. We will explain more about these as we go through this two-part article on photo reflections.



The idea of including mirrors to reveal an aspect that might well be out of the framed picture itself is far from new – artists have been using it for hundreds of years in portraits and interior paintings. The effect can be to bring an illusion of the third dimension to your two-dimensional photograph. Done well, it can also inject a sense of mystery – even a feeling of unreality, compelling viewers to look more closely and so drawing into your composition.

Maintaining maximum depth of field is very important with photographs like this. I could afford to have the mirror itself slightly out of focus (it was very close to the camera) but definitely not the pile of scallop shells in the background behind the mirror, or the clouds and sky reflected in the mirror.
So I focused on the shells behind the mirror, used the camera’s Auto Focus Lock (AFL) function, then reframed and composed the picture. Exactly the same result could have been achieved by using the Manual Focus mode – you really don’t need automated functions all the time.



Simple reflections can virtually double the amount of colour, form and interest within your picture. They can reveal the most amazing abstract shapes by breaking up the form into waving patterns of colour and shape.


But more about that in Part Two when we look at photographing reflections on water.


Check images before deleting


It's always good to have a thorough clear out of unwanted photographs on your computer.

They can take up a huge amount of memory and those pictures that are obvious duds are best deleted and got rid of. However, be very careful you are not going to throw out the 'baby with the bathwater' - it's easily done.


As a professional photographer I tend to keep far more images than I suppose I should. Well, you never know when a publisher might want a slightly different angle of a shot. Even if the 'overs' of a particular subject are not quite needle sharp, or perhaps imperfectly framed, that publisher might still be tempted to buy the image if it fits exactly what he or she is looking for. Maybe the photograph you like best just doesn't fit the necessary format of the page.

So, yes, I keep an awful lot of pictures that I feel are less than perfect.

Take this photograph of the racehorse being hosed down after a trotting race in Menorca.

On my initial edit I dismissed it, but decided to keep it anyway.

I think I was far too quick to condemn this photograph. When I re-discovered it during a long-overdue clear out I decided that I really quite liked it - I like the shining texture the water has created on the horse's head, and I like the action.

Perhaps it might, after all, be worth filing with my picture agency.

Time will tell if the picture proves to be profitable, but I do think it has a good chance of selling.

The moral of this tale - don't be in a hurry to throw out your 'overs' - keep them on a separate hard-drive and re-visit them with a careful eye before dismissing them completely.

The photograph was taken in Menorca during the horse trotting races near Mahon.

  • Camera Nikon D700
  • Lens Nikon f/2.8 70-300mm
  • ISO: 400
  • Shutter speed 1/500sec
  • Aperture: f/4



More Photo Galleries



The number of my photographs in the Gallery pages is growing.

As I have mentioned before - the plan is to publish several sets of my photographs. Most of these pictures were taken while I was on commission from The Sunday Times, but there are also photographs taken for The Independent, The Times and The Telegraph.


I hope you get you as much pleasure browsing through them as I did when I took them. It was not always easy and even these few images account for many hours and thousands of miles travelling.

But the life of a professional photographer and writer is a highly privileged one, and it was certainly a great privilege to work for some of the most professional picture editors and editors in the newspaper business.

New Photo Gallery

New Photo Gallery



I have now published the first of a series of photo galleries on the PhotoActive website.


The photographs in the fist gallery reflect the central theme and core interest of of my work over the years - People Photography. All the photographs were taken on commission for either The Sunday Times, The Times, or the Independent Newspaper. Some have not been published before, but most have have been used in numerous publications after their initial publication.

I hope you enjoy and I shall publish more images soon.

Winter Photography




Maybe this should really be Winter 'blues' Photography. That's what I was suffering from this afternoon after a week indoors with a heavy cold while the rain lashed the windows.

The rain stopped at 2pm and I was out with my camera at 2.30. I didn't care that the light was mediocre - just to be out with my camera was a sheer joy.

I walked a short distance through the village and into a field beside the 'haunted' bridge. The brook beneath was a torrent. The plan was to just take pictures - to feel the drop of a shutter and to capture something - anything.

The pictures on this page show the results of my walk around the sodden field bordering the swollen brook. I was out for just 30 minutes. I took no tripod - just my little Fuji X-Pro1 with its 18-55mm 2.8 lens. ISO was set at 400.

No, there are no award winners here - but I can't tell you how much better I feel just for getting out and capturing some photographs. So get out there and try it - I'd be interested to hear how you get on.





I liked the straight lines of these tall, bare trees and the rush of the water below. I was standing in several inches of water, so had to frame with the camera's LCD screen to get the low angle





Don't ignore the most simple of winter landscapes. Just because the light isn't perfect and the trees look a little dull, doesn't mean that there not a challenge of basic composition



Even on a fairly dull winter's day, it's amazing just how much colour there is to photograph in the world of nature - if you keep your eyes open. The saturation was pushed up by just 8% in Photoshop

New PhotoActive Website

Hello everyone,

Welcome to the new PhotoActive website.

As many of you know, there have been lots of changes for Norene and me this year - so 2016 starts with a new website and a new way of working.

We have now settled into our new home in Shropshire, after 15 happy years in Scotland. It's good to be back in dear old England, though.

2015 saw the last of our hugely successful Photography Holidays in Menorca. We came to this decision with much regret after the Hotel S'Algar, which we have used for many years, changed hands. We no longer feel we can offer the same quality and reliability to our clients.

So now I shall be concentrating on one-to-one photography courses based here in Shropshire. Maybe we shall arrange occasional photography weekends and workshops, but none are planned just yet.

Norene and I wish you all a very


Philip Dunn