Photography Weekend in Kirkcudbright – album

An awful lot of photographs were taken last weekend here in Kirkcudbright. I was running one of my Photography Weekends based at the Selkirk Arms Hotel – and mighty glad we were of the hotel’s comfort and good food – the weather was not kind to us. Cold, windy and pretty wet most of the time. Despite all this I think most people had a great time on the photography course and learned a lot. Sadly we had two last minute cancellations due to illness so the group was down to six photographers.

Good photographers just can't sit still when they have a camera in their hand. Now pay attention please - over here!  Smile!

Good photographers just can't sit still when they have a camera in their hand. Now pay attention please - over here! Smile!

For the first time we were able to use Broughton House, a fantastic National Trust For Scotland property in the town thanks to Sally Eastgate the manager – this was a real blessing as we were able to get indoors out os the rain. Mind you, we did manage to spend some time taking pictures along the harbourside  in a glimmer of sun before the rain settled in.

I got some lovely emails from members of the group this week. Here are just three of them:

From Jo Guy

“Thought I would drop you a quick e mail to thank you and Noreen for a great weekend – I learnt lots, ate lots and above all laughed lots!

“The weekend could not have been better and I have already recommended you to two people. It was a shame to leave and I would have liked to have stayed for longer. I would certainly be intrested in any other weekends you are thinking of doing.”

From Linda Fozzard

“Thank you both so much for a wonderful weekend. I can’t believe how much I learned and as a result of that, discovering some more of the ins and outs of my camera. Lots more to find out I know, but much further along the road now after the weekend.”

From Peter Faircloth

“Just a quick note to say thank you for the weekend. I enjoyed it immensely, as ever, and got a lot out of it. What was missing in the weather was more than compensated for by the conviviality of our group. I see your weekends as wonderful opportunities to take it easy and switch off, as well as to improve my photography. It was great.”

NOTE TO THE PHOTOGRAPHERS: As promised, I have put a photo album of a selection of pictures on the Photobox website. Just click the link below and you should be able to see them. If you want to order a print, you can do it directly from Photobox.

High ISO is not new to photography

In my ongoing quest to sort my old images I came across these photographs taken in a genuine barber’s shop over 20 years ago. What fascinated my almost as much as the wonderful location and subject was that it was taken using Kodak T-Max Pro (TMZ 5054) ISO 3200 film – and I can’t understand why.

kodak-film-t-max-01

I’ve gone through the contact sheets and negatives looking at my assignments immediately before and after taking these pictures and I can find no good reason why I should have been shooting on film with an ISO as high as 3200. Perhaps I was just experimenting. I certainly did not need film of that speed to capture the barber and his customers – there seems to be an awful lot of windows and plenty of light in his barber shop.

kodak-filmAnyway, the pictures were taken in Scunthorpe, Yorkshire. I was sent there on assignment by The Sunday Times – that part at least is clear from the notes on my contact sheets. On the same contact sheet and taken with the same Kodak T-Max film are some night shots taken in Cadiz, Spain. So The Sunday Times must have sent me to Spain either on the same day or the day after photographing Scunthorpe. I started the film in Scunthorpe and finished it in Cadiz. The high ISO came in very handy for those night shots.

The real downside of using film of such high ISO is that image quality has really suffered. In this case it has produced grain the size of moth balls. Things work pretty much the same with a digital camera except that grain has been superseded by digital noise.  Sometime this loss of quality is a price well worth paying. In fact there are many times when you simply would not get a photograph at all unless you pushed up the ISO.

In the days when I used film, I very rarely bought high ISO film such as  Kodak T-Max 3200. I standardised on just two films – Ilford FP4 ISO 125, and Fuji Neopan 400. I would often ‘push’ the Neopan up to ISO 800 or 1600 with extra development. This produced wonderful results. So experimentation was rare – as a professional I was far too busy making sure I ALWAYS produced good consistent results, and there was little time for trying out new film.

FIND OUR ABOUT PHILIP DUNN’S PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAYS IN MENORCA



Better Photography DVDs


Photography in the Street – video demo

Working with a group of photography students recently in a situation that was just brimming with photo opportunities, it was again brought home to me that some photographers are not naturally aware in the visual sense.

These photographers find difficulty in seeing pictures unless they are pointed out to them – or unless the picture is so obvious it almost jumps out and smacks them in the eye. They normally fall into two camps – one just needs a bit of guidance and help to awaken their visual senses. I have tremendous patience with these photographers. In fact I really enjoy revealing to them a method of working that gets the scales falling off their eyes.

They are the photographers who just need a gentle push in the right direction to get started and, given a little tuition, they very quickly begin to ‘see’ pictures almost everywhere they look. I am never surprised when these photographers produce a great set of pictures by the end of a photography course.

The other category is a lost cause – they just don’t get it and probably never will. They know it all. Usually I find that these photographers are more interested in the hardware of photography than the thing that really matters – capturing pictures. They are generally deeply committed to the use of post-processing methods and are often very knowledgeable on the subject. They like to use a lot of photographic jargon.

Happily most of the photographers who come to me fall into the first category and just need a bit of positive guidance. Mind you, I have tried to make it clear that if you are totally besotted by the techie side of photography, you might be better off finding another tutor. My interest is in pictures and I love to explain and demonstrate how to see and capture them – that’s what I teach best and enjoy most.

As a small demonstration in the technique of ‘seeing’ pictures in perfectly ordinary situations, I filmed the video embedded below while I was in Menorca a couple of weeks ago. The idea being that if a photographer practices seeing and capturing pictures in ordinary situations, they will really clean up when they are presented with really exciting photo opportunities.

So, I found a very ordinary street and gave myself just three minutes to spot three different photographs. The resulting pictures will not bowl you over, but the method of spotting them can help you see others when you are out and about with your camera.

If you’d like first hand photography tuition and a great holiday – find out more about my Photography Holidays in Menorca

Philip Dunn’s  Better Photography DVDs Light & Composition and Portraits in Natural Light will give you invaluable first-hand photography tuition

Get it right in the camera FIRST

I may have mentioned before how good it is to see photographers returning again and again for my photography holidays and courses. It is doubly rewarding to see the progress of these photographers and the improvement in their composition and camera craft each time they return – it makes it all worthwhile for me.

photography-courses-peter-fairclothPeter Faircloth (pictured left) has been to two of my photography weekends and he’s also been on a photography holiday in Menorca. It was a real pleasure to have him with us again this weekend and see how his pictures have improved yet again – to the point where he is becoming quite an accomplished photographer – despite his natural modesty.

Peter was with us for a photography weekend based at the Selkirk Arms here in Kirkcudbright, Scotland. As always I asked everyone to bring a few of their pictures so that I can see where they are at and how I can best help and offer guidance.

Here are a couple of Peter’s cracking landscape photographs – both were taken on his Canon EOS 40D

Peter leads a very busy life and I know the time he spends taking photographs is very precious to him. When he comes on one of the photography holidays or weekends he totally absorbs himself in his photography. He has exactly the right approach – he tries to get it right in the camera first. This is partly because he just doesn’t have the time to get too deeply involved with post-processing, although I believe he does have Photoshop Elements.

I cannot stress too strongly that for any photographer wanting to improve their pictures, getting it right in the camera should always be the number one priority. Do not rely on ‘doing it later in Photoshop’ this leads to sloppy camera craft and mediocre images. It also makes photographers very lazy behind the camera and dulls their visual awareness.

So all power to your shutter finger Peter.

photography-course-peter-faircloth

photography-weekend-landscape-peter-faircloth

If you would like to learn how to ‘get it right in the camera’ why not join me on one of my Photography holidays in Menorca

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAYS IN MENORCA WITH PHILIP DUNN

Modifying a Monfrotto tripod head

I always recommend a simple ball and socket head for a tripod because it keeps things absolutely simple. The more knobs and devices you have on a tripod – the more difficult it is to use. Keep it simple.

However, in recommending the Manfrotto 486 Compact Ball Head, which I stock in the PhotoActive Camera Shop, there is a problem. For reasons best known to themselves, Manfrotto have complicated the design of this otherwise excellent piece of kit, by providing an extra spring-loaded screw for mounting the camera.

This screw is larger than the threads on most modern digital cameras and the spring-loaded action can cause all sorts of fumbling when trying to attach the camera to the tripod. The base of the camera has to be pressed down while tightening up the screw – it’s not a sensible idea.

Well, as some of you have already discovered – it’s very easy to get rid of this extra screw fitting. Here’s how…

1
You need an Allen Key to fit the small grub screw on the mounting plate. Loosen this screw.

camera-tripod-head-01

2
With this grub screw loosened, tighten the ball head so that when you turn the mounting plate it will unscrew. Remove this mounting plate

camera-tripod-head-02

3
The offending screw and the spring is now visible. Lift off the screw

Camera tripod head 03

4
Lift out the unwanted spring

camera-tripod-head-04

5
Replace the mounting plate by screwing it back on and re-tighten the small grub screw with your Allen key. Job done – no more fiddling

camera-tripod-head-05

TIP
Put the unwanted screw and spring in a safe place – you never know, it may be needed again in the future and it will only take a few moments to replace.


Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon


Jane Bown 60 years of photography

From the Beatles to Mick Jagger and Richard Nixon, photographer Jane Bown has photographed them all.

Jane Bown's photograph of Henri Cartier-Bresson taken in 1957

Jane Bown's photograph of Henri Cartier-Bresson taken in 1957

It started way back in 1949 when she photographed philosopher Bertram Russell eating his breakfast.

That was 60 years ago and Jane Bown’s portraits have been gracing the pages of The Observer ever since. Jane is now a little unsteady on her feet at the age of 84, but her mind is as sharp and enquiring as ever. She has no time for digital photography nor the amount of equipment lugged around by her modern counterparts. Jane is famous for carrying her Rollieflex and her Olympus film cameras in an old shopping bag.

Jane’s new book ‘Exposures’ is available in the PhotoActive Camera Shop at just £17.42. It contains many truly memorable portraits.

An exhibition of Jane Bown’s portraits will be held at:

Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 from 23 October to 21 November

University Gallery and Baring Wing, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne from 8 January to 19 February

Jane Bown was a great advocate of using natural light for her photographs – she would often place her subjects near windows or in doorways in order to take advantage of the best natural light. If you would like to learn how to use natural light for your portrait photographs, my DVD Portraits in Natural Light is available online from the PhotoActive website for just £14.95 including p+p.

This DVD covers how to use window light, reflectors, how to get the best from your subject and what equipment to use for best results. It has helped many hundreds of photographers improve their natural light portraiture.



Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon


Time to spare – take photographs!

I had an hour to spare one Sunday morning recently – I had taken Norene to church in Es Castell, a village not far from S’Algar where our photography holidays are based in Menorca.

I enjoy these Sunday mornings – with Norene happily praying for my redemption my first stop is the Bar Tony, a down-to-earth corner bar always noisy with locals playing dominoes at this time of day at the weekend. After coffee I wandered the streets looking for new ideas that might help my photography students.

triple-photograph-colour

This particular morning I decided to concentrate on simple colour combinations. No wide angle lenses, no telephotos, just mid range focal length on my little Canon G9.

It’s amazing how, once you start to look for a particular type of photographic subject, the ideas and pictures begin to appear. The fact that you are focusing your mind on something helps reveal the possibilities.

Within just 50 yards or so I had taken this simple series of three pictures which I found quite pleasing. Not earth-shattering, I know, but if, like me you cannot help seeing and taking photographs, it is good to be able to produce something from the simplest of subjects when you have a few minutes to spare.

So with a some photos in the bag – it was back to Tony’s Bar to wait for Norene.

Such simple pleasures when you own a camera.

FIND OUR MORE ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY HOLIDAYS IN MENORCA


500Gb storage device for photo safari

Ken Terry, now an old friend who has been on several Photography Holidays in Menorca with me – he’s also a regular on my Photography Weekend Courses – tells me he is off to photograph big game in Africa. He has bought a new storage device to cope with all the pictures he hopes to take.

On Ken’s recommendation, I have stocked the Vosonic devices – 500, 180 and 80 Gb versions in The PhotoActive Camera Shop.  The 500Gb unit is priced £349.

Here’s what Ken has to say about it…

I have just bought a Vosonic VP8870 viewer through Amazon. It is very similar to the Epson viewer I have, but the screen is a bit smaller which makes the unit smaller as well. The one I bought has a 500Gb hard drive that is user replaceable with a standard 2.5 inch SATA drive with a capacity up to 500Gb. They even give you a jeweller’s screwdriver to undo the cover.
I had it yesterday after being recommended it from another photographer friend. I found that that if the retailer uses Parcelforce, if I’m not in they deliver it to the local Post Office and I haven’t had to pay any extra for this service.
With my existing (old now ) Epson P2000, although I could view the JPEG that is stored in the RAW files, I couldn’t zoom in on it. The Vosonic allows you to zoom in as normal and is compatible with my 1DMKIII and even the new 5D MkII RAW files.
The unit can also be used to record video from a television and play it back, it will record audio either from the line-in or the built in microphone and play that back as well. It came with stereo earphones. You can attach a USB memory stick and both read and write to that. It also comes with a remote control and a leather case. The battery it uses is a standard LION battery that costs around £13, and seems to hold the charge pretty well. I recently went on a day out and downloaded the photos from an 8Gb 30Mb/s Sandisk CF card (that wasn’t full) and it took nearly an hour to download on my Epson. It only took about 15 minutes on the Vosonic.
It cost about £350 which is much cheaper than the Epson.
The reason I bought it is that I am going on a photo safari to Tanzania next April for two weeks, visiting the Srengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.

“I have just bought a Vosonic VP8870 viewer through Amazon. It is very similar to the Epson viewer I have, but the screen is a bit smaller which makes the unit smaller as well. The one I bought has a 500Gb hard drive that is user replaceable with a standard 2.5 inch SATA drive with a capacity up to 500Gb. They even give you a jeweller’s screwdriver to undo the cover. The Vosonic will also display the simple EXIF data and a histogram of the photograph.

Vosoni-VP8870-storage-viewer

With my existing (old now ) Epson P2000, although I could view the JPEG that is stored in the RAW files, I couldn’t zoom in on it. The Vosonic allows you to zoom in as normal and is compatible with my 1DMKIII and even the new 5D MkII RAW files.

The unit can also be used to record video from a television and play it back, it will record audio either from the line-in or the built in microphone and play that back as well. It came with stereo earphones. You can attach a USB memory stick and both read and write to that. It also comes with a remote control and a leather case. The battery it uses is a standard LION battery that costs around £13, and seems to hold the charge pretty well. I recently went on a day out and downloaded the photos from an 8Gb 30Mb/s Sandisk CF card (that wasn’t full) and it took nearly an hour to download on my Epson. It only took about 15 minutes on the Vosonic.

It cost about £350 which is much cheaper than the Epson.

The reason I bought it is that I am going on a photo safari to Tanzania next April for two weeks, visiting the Srengeti and the Ngorongoro crater.”

Thanks Ken – have a great trip – hopefully you’ll share some of your pictures when you get back.



Photoactive Camera Shop with Amazon


Indoor photography with one-to-one student

I’ve just had a great day of photography with my student Claire Bennett. Claire, who admits to being a complete novice with a camera, came to me here in Kirkcudbright for one-to-one photography tuition.

It is always good for a tutor to work with people who are enthusiastic about their photography and Claire was dead keen to learn how to take better photographs.

Claire Bennett's photographs of Colin in his shed. Not bad for a complete beginner after just one day of one-to-one photography tuition

Claire Bennett's photograph of Colin in his shed. Not bad for a complete beginner after just one day of one-to-one photography tuition

We started the day by going through some of her previous photographs and then looking at the controls of her Canon 450D camera. We covered ISO, apertures, shutter speeds and exposure modes before moving on to explain how to use the White Balance (WB) controls. By mid-morning, after coffee, we were out taking photographs together down on the river side. The tide was high and Claire’s wellie boots really came in useful as we were often wading in the water.

Claire had previously bought and studied my photography DVD Light and Composition, so had a good grasp and understand about the direction and quality of light. This meant we could really crash ahead and put lots of techniques into practice.

After lunch we were out again, making full use of the glorious autumn sunshine. This time we headed down to the harbour and Claire became totally absorbed in photographing the fishing boats and the reflections on the water. By now she was using the Manual (M) exposure mode like a pro and was producing some really beautiful images.

I had a surprise in store for her, though.

Claire had never used a tripod but had brought a brand new one along – I was determined that she would get a chance to put it to good use.

I wanted her to photograph my friend Colin’s shed. A very special shed. A photographer’s dream. There are pictures to be seen everywhere – old golf clubs, shop tills, drift wood, hats, ornaments, you name it. All in a great jumble surrounding Colin’s comfortable armchair in front of the wood burning stove.

one-to-one photography student

Claire photographed lots of these items but had her heart set on photographing Colin himself sat in that chair.

Above is Claire’s photograph of Colin – not bad for a complete beginner who has never used a tripod and after just one day of photography tuition.

Well done Claire (that’s her on the left) – it was a pleasure to have you with us and we hope to see you on another photography course or holiday very soon.

When you come on a Photography Course with Philip Dunn, you will learn lots of professional secrets. You will learn a ‘method’ of working that will always result in better photographs.

On one of Philip Dunn’s Photography Holidays you will cover many of the basic and advanced techniques of Travel Photography. This includes coaching in photographing people and street photography. For many years Philip was the travel photographer for The Sunday Times.


Better Photography DVDs


Better Landscape Composition

Even very slight adjustments in the framing of your landscape photographs can make a tremendous difference to the composition and atmosphere of the image.

Both photographs here are posted as they were taken in the camera – full frame, no cropping. They were taken within seconds of each other, with only a very small adjustment in the shooting position, but the overall effect is much more pleasing in the second (lower) picture – and the change of angle has the added bonus of hiding the ugly telegraph pole beside the bridge.

landscape photograph - poor composition

landscape composition - good

A stronger illusion of depth has been created simply by raising the camera level slightly to lower the layer of foreground leaves in the image so that these leaves break the outline of the top of the bridge.

There was no need to overdo it – just enough to completely hide that telegraph pole and break that line.

This slightly higher angle now looks downwards a little and has the advantage of cutting out the light sky altogether – and as the sky is less distracting, the composition takes on a more intimate feel. That is partly because you can no longer see into infinity, but the eye is confined within a limited distance.

When you come on a Photography Course with Philip Dunn, you will learn many professional secrets that will help you create better photographs.

Philip Dunn’s Photography Holidays cover the basis of Travel Photography which includes coaching in photographing people and street photography. For many years Philip was the travel photographer for The Sunday Times.


Better Photography DVDs