20% Discount at Photobox for PhotoActive

The PhotoActive website is now affiliated to PhotoBox and you can take advantage of some very special discounts and offers when you order photo prints, calendars and photo books.

I have had several calendars and books of photographs printed by PhotoBox and can recommend them for service and quality.

These offers will change week by week – so be sure to take advantage of them straight away.

Right now you can get the follow tremendous offers:

20% DISCOUNT when you spend £20 or more – quote code WINTER20 at check out

10% DISCOUNT when you spend £10 or more – quote code WINTER10 at check out


Click the banner to go to PhotoBox

One Place left on Photography Workshop

There is still one place available for the Photography Workshop coming up this weekend in SW Scotland.

This is a great way to learn while having a lot of fun.

Photographers at work in Broughton House, Kirkcudbright. Our photographers often practice interior photography in the National Trust property

The fully inclusive price of £395 includes everything…

  • Full photography tuition with Philip Dunn
  • Two nights hotel accommodation with full Scottish Breakfast at Selkirk Arms Hotel
  • Welcome drink and fresh canapes
  • Morning coffees with homemade biscuits
  • Lunch – soup and sandwiches, tea, coffee
  • Afternoon teas – with homemade shortbreads
  • Canapes before dinner on second night
  • Dinner – two nights – the food at The Selkirk Arms Hotel is superb!

So this is your last chance – don’t miss out.

Find out more about Photography Weekends with Philip Dunn and listen to the photographers’ comments


Pocket Tripod information

During my latest Photography Weekend, one of the photographers, Brian Yates, produced a beautiful little mini-tripod clamp that could be slipped into his pocket.

pocket camera tripodThis little tripod was in the shape of a ‘G’ Clamp and could be clamped to a table or door. It also had three tiny legs hidden inside its body and a stainless steel screw for screwing into fences etc. It was beautifully designed and engineered.

Now I’m definitely not a man for photo gadgets and gizmos – certainly not when I have to carry them about. But this little tripod really delighted me. I wanted one!!

Now Brian is obviously a generous-hearted chap – but I could not persuade him to part with that lovely little pocket tripod. Brian has owned the tripod for maybe 20 years and its pedigree is long lost in the past. There was no maker’s name or information on the tripod – only the words ‘Made in Germany’ – which certainly accounts for its high quality.

Anyone know anything more about these little gems of photo tripods?

Of course I’m all for modern equipment – and I think the Gorillapod range of tripods is excellent – that’s why I stock them in the PhotoActive camera Shop, but that little pocket tripod of Brian’s just intrigued me.

Photography Workshop for spring 2011

I have just arranged another of my Photography Courses for springtime 2011.

The dates are 8th – 10th April 2011

The fully inclusive price covers accommodation and all meals, coffees/teas, welcome drink with canapes at the Selkirk Arms Hotel, Kirkcudbright, SW Scotland – and of course it includes full photography tuition by me, Philip Dunn.

If you’d like to hear comments about the latest of my Photography Courses – just go to the two minute video on the Photography Worskshops page.

There is still ONE PLACE AVAILABLE for this coming weekend’s Photography Workshop


Photography Courses – video comments

We have just got home after enjoying one of our Photography Courses here in Kirkcudbright. What a lovely group of photographers we’ve had with us over the weekend.

Everyone arrived at The Selkirk Arms Hotel on Friday evening eager to learn and wanting to enjoy themselves.

Judging by the video comments I’ve just put together, I think this photography workshop was a great success and I was able to get across a massive amount of information and photo technique. This two minute video is embedded below – so you can judge for yourselves. I’d like to thank every one of the group for helping to make this photography workshop such a success.

We covered a great many subjects but really concentrated on what I consider to be the two most vital aspects of photography – Light & Composition. Those of you who have watched my video about Light & Composition will know just how passionate I am about this.

The entire group was so keen to be out and about taking photographs that we decided not to go back to the hotel to look at our images, but to carry on taking pictures. So, apart from what I have seen on the camera screens, I’ve not been able to take a close look at the group’s work. I’m hoping everyone will send me a couple of their images so that I can post them on the PhotoActive blog

Anyway, thanks again for a great Photography Weekend.

Photography Holiday Menorca Photographs – one

It’s three weeks now since the end of our most recent Photography Holiday in Menorca and I did promise I would show some of the wonderful images taken by the group. I will be posting lots of images from this photography holiday over the next few days – I know you will be impressed. I certainly was.

photography holiday menorca

A long exposure for this disturbing shot by David Neve. A beautiful image captured right outside our photography holiday hotel in Menorca. Canon EOS 5D, 1sec f/16

photography holiday Menorca - hand

Instant reactions were needed by photographer David Neve to capture this fleeting moment during his Photography Holiday. Canon EOS 5D, 1/125sec f/5.6

The standard was just fantastic, and bearing in mind that some of the photographers on the holiday were very inexperienced, I was absolutely blown away by the high standards achieved during the week.

The commitment to improve and the delightful way the group set out to enjoy every minute of their photography holiday was just a joy.

To kick things off I am featuring a couple of pictures by David Neve, from Lincolnshire. Yes, David is a professional photographer. He specialises in weddings and equestrian photography. But he has a passion for photography that has no bounds and an ambition to become a successful travel. I have little doubt that if David carries on the way he is going, all his ambitions will be realised.

David has a wonderful eye for shape, form and composition and he also has the fast reactions necessary to capture those fleeting moments that can make such amazing pictures.

The two images here are utterly different. David’s picture of the old lady’s hand on the door was spotted and captured in a fraction of a second as we were photographing the lady standing in the doorway of her house.

His moody time exposure was captured right outside our photography holiday hotel in S’Algar. I think it is very beautiful and quite disturbing.

Beautifully captured – I hope to show a couple more of David Neve’s extraordinary images very soon.

Watch what David and other photographers had to say about their Photography Holiday in Menorca

David Neve’s website

Find out more about our Photography Holidays in Menorca

Photographing in strong sunlight

Yesterday I had another student with me for one of my one-to-one photography courses. Yet again, at the top of his wish list was a desire to understand more about using Manual Exposure Mode. Lesley O’Brien was using a Nikon 200D, which, but he had rarely ventured away from the fully automatic ‘P’ Programme Mode.

Photography courses - boats

Very few clouds in the sky yesterday - this led to some very strong sunlight, but that can be turned to the photographer's advantage with a little imagination

The light here in Kirkcudbright was very strong indeed yesterday; a powerful sun beamed out of a clear blue sky for most of the day.

Photographing shadows

Strong light means dark shadows - this can be used by the photographer to create intriquing images

This can create some real difficulties even for an experienced photographer, and lead to very hard, empty shadows and high contrast. The one benefit of this steady, hard sunshine was precisely that steadiness – the light was unchanging and constant, so that for Lesley, learning to use the Manual Exposure Mode (magic ‘M’), once he had set his exposure outdoors, it was unlikely to change a great deal.

photography tuition - street scene with shadows

Those deep, dark shadows against the coloured houses have actually become compositional devices

It is quite possible, with a little thought and imagination, to turn that hard, poor quality light into something special. In other words, if you can’t beat it, you may just be able to join it by choosing subjects that benefit from crisp, contrasty light.

Sometimes, the shadows themselves become the subject.

As we explored the harbourside in Kirkcudbright, I got Lesley to seek out patterns and shadows cast by the strong sun onto the decks and gear of the fishing boats. As we walked down the streets of multi-coloured terraced houses, I encouraged him to see the shadows and cast by frontlight, sidelight and backlight – all the more obvious for being so contrasty and strong.

I have posted three of my photographs – snatched on my little Canon Ixus while I was helping Lesley – on the page here.

I think it was a successful day because I got this short email from Lesley this morning:

“Just to say many thanks to you and Norene for an excellent day.
Having come back and downloaded to the computer I cannot believe the difference from most of my pictures before. And that is before Photoshop!!!!!!
Seriously the difference is unbelievable. Automatic will not be used in the future.”

I was also able to convert Lesley (I think) away from two instilled points of view:
A – He did not believe that working on an image after taking it had anything to do with good photography
B – He did not like flash

When he left later yesterday afternoon, he admitted that just maybe subtle post processing was just as important as it was when photographers worked with film and darkroom enlarger, and he said he wanted to buy a separate flash unit.

Perhaps I should be a politician, or a diplomat. But, NO – I always speak the truth: post processing is often an integral and essential part of producing a good photograph, and flash is the most portable, cleanest and most versatile light source you can stuff into a camera bag.

The new Photoshop Elements 9 is now available in the PhotoActive Camera Shop

Photography Courses – more Manual Exposures

Yesterday I had yet another photographer who came on one of my one-to-one photography courses to learn more about how to use Manual Exposure Mode.

Lee Ann, that’s her at work in the picture on the right, had a beautiful Canon D1 Mk11 camera and, quite rightly, realised that by using only the AV exposure mode she was not taking full control of this fine piece of kit.

I don’t think Lee Ann wants to go back to using an auto exposure mode after she realised just how easy it is to use the Manual Mode – magic ‘M’.

We spent the afternoon photographing one of my favourite locations – and one that so many of my photography students find inspiring… a secret garden hidden away here in Kirkcudbright. In this garden are some amazing subjects including a shed full to the brim with a collection of strange brick-a-brack.

This proved a real challenge for Lee Ann as she was not well-practised in using a tripod – absolutely essential in that old shed. It’s dark, and I do mean dark in there.
It did not take Lee Ann long to learn, though. In no time at all she was creating some fantastic photographs and the tripod proved no problem at all – perhaps because the tripod she was using was a simple ball head type, the only sort I every use.

And what were those manual exposures like? – Spot on.

desaturated image of derelict piano

Unusually when I am with my photography students, I managed to take a picture of my own while Lee Ann was gathering her photographs inside the shed – see the photograph above. Anyone who has been with me to this garden before may recognise the old piano which is decaying gracefully under the trees. I don’t think it will be long before it drops into a heap of dust, but until it does, it is a wonderful photographic subject.

For my picture of the piano I decided to desaturate the surrounding green bushes – a simple job in Layers in Photoshop. This has had the effect of accentuating the subtle colours of the piano and concentrating the eye on the principle subject.

  • The image was taken with my Nikon D700 with a Nikon f2.8 24-70mm lens
  • Shutter Speed: 1sec
  • Aperture: f/14
  • ISO 200
  • A hand-held flash on 1/8th Manual Power was positioned to the right and fired manually during the exposure


Photography Course – learning how to use Manual Mode

One of the most common request I get from the people who come to me for photography tuition is for me to explain how to use the Manual Exposure setting on a DSLR camera.

The magic ‘M’ seems to strike terror into so many otherwise competent photographers. I Photography student Harvey Ellisthink this is partially because so many books and magazines make it sound so daunting. Why? It’s really very simple and so much more rewarding to take control of your camera.
My student for yesterday’s one-to-one photography course was Harvey Ellis (pictured left), from Doncaster. When he arrived and we sat down to chat over a coffee, I asked him what he would like to achieve from his day with me.

Harvey’s reply was simply and instant – he wanted to learn how to use the Manual Exposure setting on his Nikon D90.

By 11.30 that morning – after a couple of hours demonstration and talk, we were out taking photographs together and Harvey was wondering why he had ever bothered with the Auto Programme settings on his camera. He was happily taking all his pictures using manual exposure settings and getting perfect exposures. By the time Harvey left for home yesterday – he was like a kid with a new toy.

He likened his new-found skills to learning to swim for the first timer and not wanting to come out of the swimming pool.

Now Harvey just didn’t want to stop taking photographs – using his own manual exposure skills.

Here’s what Harvey had to say about his photography course in the short video clip below


  • Don’t be frightened of the magic ‘M’ – it costs nothing
  • Remember your exposure metering scale is shown in the viewfinder
  • The pointer in the middle of the scale indicates correct exposure
  • Set Aperture first, then change the Shutter Speed until the pointer is centred in the scale
  • Use ‘Centre-Weighted’ exposure mode. ‘Averaging is too vague, ‘Spot’ too sensitive

Follow these photo tips until you gain confidence. Then you can experiment further.

Of course it is far easier and quicker to get this understanding across to a student face to face on a photography course, but I have never had anyone who could not pick it up within a morning of photography tuition.


Photography Holiday fun photo gallery

I have just put a selection of fun photographs into a Photobox album showing lots of the ‘happy snaps’ I took during our September 2010 Photography Holiday in Menorca.

Photographer's coffee break

Happy snap... our resident joker Ken Terry - this was the fifth time Ken has been with us in Menorca - plays the rabbit ears trick on fellow photographer Joe Banin during a coffee break in a cafe in Mahon. Watch what Joe and some of the other photographers had to say about their Photography Holiday by clicking the image to see short videos

You can find the photo gallery page here complete with link to Photobox.


As I explain on the gallery page, I always devote all my time during these holidays to helping and coaching the photographers – these gallery snaps of the photographers enjoying their holiday were captured whenever I got the chance during the week. They really are holiday snaps – and all the more fun for that.