Interior Photography with a Compact Camera

We have just returned from a weekend away. On the way home we stopped off in Carlisle – I have arranged a special Photography Workshop in Carlisle Cathedral on March 26th and I just wanted to call in and get to know the building a little better.

photography workshop Carlisle Cathedral service

Even a small compact camera like my Canon Ixus 960IS is capable of capturing photographs with atmosphere

So far, most of the photographers who have booked on this Photography Workshop have told me that they use Digital SLR cameras, but I have had a couple of enquiries from people who are very keen, but who use good quality compact cameras. They have asked – would these little cameras be up to the job, and is it worth them coming along on the workshop.

I have said it before and I am happy to say it again. It is not the camera that matters, it is the way that you use it.

A good quality compact camera is quite capable of producing fabulous shots in Carlisle, or any other cathedral. The trick lies in knowing where your small camera’s limitations lie. Work up to, and within, those limitations and your pictures can be absolutely fine.

To prove the point, this afternoon I snapped a couple of shots – one inside Carlisle Cathedral itself, and one in the super little restaurant the photographers can use for their coffees and lunches if they wish.

Both photographs were taken on my little Canon Ixus 690IS. I did not use a tripod to take the pictures. If you look closely at the picture of the stained glass, you will see one of the limitations I mentioned starting to show with the burning out of highlights in the lighter areas of the window. But even this can be reduced by with slight under-exposure (using the exposure compensation function).

Photography Workshop Carlisle Cathdral - stained glass window

A small compact camera does have its limitation - like the loss of highlight detail when the ISO is pushed up beyon ISO400. Although it may look as though I have used a little flash on the wooden carvings, the light is in fact coming from a high window behind the camera

Okay, if you enlarge these images too much they will show signs of noise – but the atmosphere of this wonderful building and a little of what goes on inside it is there.

Photography Workshops, Carlisle - restaurant

Once again, no tripod was used. The ISO was pushed to just ISO400 on the Canon Ixus compact camera - but the results has caught something of the atmosphere of this interesting building

Of course, the limitations of these small cameras mean that you may not be able to control your depth of field or use long exposures, but I am certain you will benefit from the experience -especially if you can bring along a small tripod.

We have got a very special day planned for this Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral. Your photography permit is included in the price and we have gained rare permission to use tripods for one hour in the afternoon – a great opportunity to really produce some great interior shots.

Find out more about the Photography Workshop in Carlisle Cathedral


Street photography – it’s better if you relax

Recently I took a stroll around one of the locations we photograph during our Photography Holidays in Menorca.

Photography Holiday - Ciutedella

Just some of the elements that make a trip to Ciutedella so popular with the photographers on my Photography Holidays in Menorca - colour, interesting places and lots to photograph

The old town of Ciutedella is a marvellous place to introduce photographers, who may be a little nervous about taking photographs of people in the street, to the magic of street photography. Quite apart from this beautiful town’s wonderful architecture, narrow alleys and courtyards, the people – like almost everyone in Menorca – is very laid back about photographers and being photographed.

That makes Menorca a wonderfully relaxed training ground for keen photographers.

I was definitely in ‘relaxed’ mode for my stroll around the streets of Ciutedella. I took only my little Canon Ixus compact camera and, after a beer and tapas in my favourite street cafe, I set off to look for some new subjects to include in the next Photography Holiday coming up in May.

Anyone who has been on one of these holidays with me will understand just how much research goes in to the smooth running of every excursion and photo shoot. For instance, I always try to visit each location on the same day one week before I arrive with the photographers during the Photography Holiday. This level of research may not be too critical when we are photographing landscapes, but it does make things run smoothly when, for instance, we want to photograph a street market or weekly event – there’s no point in turning up on the wrong day!

Photography Holidays street photography - Ciutedella

This knife sharpener's small shop will definitely be included on the itinerary for the next Photography Holiday

So any time I spend exploring the places we will visit during the Photography Holidays is time well spent.

But even while exploring and researching I simply have to take pictures.

These three pictures were captured as a wandered slowly through the streets of Ciutedella. Like many creative pursuits, with street photography it seems to me that the more you are able to relax and enjoy what you are doing, the more opportunities seem to present themselves. People also seem to respond more positively when the photographer shows pleasure in what he or she is doing – without displaying too much eagerness or being too pushy.

I was pleased to find the knife-sharpener working away behind his open window. He had a long queue of customers waiting, otherwise I would have gone into his shop and asked to take more pictures. But he will certainly be included on the route we take with our next Photography Holiday snappers.

Street photography - Menorca

The old ladies were photographed as they sat in the shade chatting - I will send them a copy of the photograph, of course

The old ladies in the street, what are they doing? Well, I had photographed them as they sat on the bench chatting. We had shared a few pleasant words – my Spanish is improving slowly – and I asked them to give me an address where I could send them a couple of prints. As they wrote, I took more photographs. One of the rules of street photography is that you should always make the most of every opportunity.

Don’t miss your opportunity to join us for a Photography Holiday in Menorca – you’ll learn a tremendous amount and have a wonderful time with like-minded people.

Find out more about Photography Holidays in Menorca

Photography Holiday Dates & Prices


New location on Photography Holidays

I have discovered a great new location for our photographers on our Photography Holidays in Menorca this coming May.

Photography Holidays new photo location

I hope to be taking our photographers to this wonderful location during our Photography Holiday in Menorca this coming May - the place is a visual knockout

This new location absolutely fascinated me and I’m sure our photographers are going to love it. The only problem we have at the moment is checking that our mini-bus can get down the narrow lanes that leads to it on the coast. If so, it’s a goer. The idea would be to get to this place late in the afternoon when the light is low. I’ve been there at midday when the sun was high in the sky and I still found it a great place to take photographs.

We are always on the lookout for new locations for our Menorca Photography Holidays and I’m delighted to find a place that can offer so many visual opportunities.

The next Photography Holiday will be May 13th-20th and there are still some places available. You will cover a great deal of photography technique during the week – everything from seascape, landscape, interiors, people and street photography – so make sure of you place now.



Photography & when to wear socks in bed

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that yesterday Norene and I set off on the boat yesterday, intending to spend a couple of days afloat during the well-predicted spell of fine winter weather in SW Scotland.

flaming sunset photograph

Yes, I know it's only another bl***** sunset, but I like the colours and the patterns in the water. I've posted it to give you an idea of just how spectacular the day was yesterday

Well, yes – yesterday was lovely. It was actually quite warm in the sunshine and I managed to take some photographs of the fabulous Galloway coastline in the most beautiful light conditions. Last night, too, it was glorious with a spectacular moon and I fine display of stars. You may know that Galloway is world famous for its lack of light pollution. In fact, Galloway is one of the darkest places on planet earth (See Galloway Night Sky).

Of course it’s just not possible to photograph night stars from a moving boat even when the sea is calm and the boat is at anchor, but I did manage to photograph the moon, which was shining super-brightly, by pushing the ISO up to 800 and using a wide aperture. A picture that is only for personal use as the quality will certainly not be good enough for sales purposes.

With the darkness came an intense cold and the temperature plunged to minus 10 degrees. It was a case for hot water bottles, thermals and thick socks in bed, but we slept well once we got warm.

This morning we woke to thick, and I do mean thick fog. Moonshadow’s windows were also thick – with ice, and that was on the inside.

photograph of the moon from a boat

With the ISO pushed up to 800 I was able to shoot at 1/60sec at f3.5 to capture the moon last night. That building you can see lit on the left is Knockbrex House, Galloway

The world outside had been transformed. We could see nothing beyond 20 feet or so in any direction from Moonshadow’s decks. The weather forecast for fog patches had been spot on, except this patch of fog seemed to cover the whole of SW Scotland along the Solway coast.

Using radar and GPS backed up with calculations on the paper chart, we made slow, steady progress back to Kirkcudbright and home. It really was just too cold to be out on the boat. I spoke on the VHF to Norman, a friend and skipper of a local fishing boat. I could see him on the radar and I knew that the blip on the screen was almost certainly him, but I could not actually see his boat although he was less that a hundred yards away as we passed.

The fog cleared just down river from Kirkcudbright harbour. It cleared long enough for us to tie up alongside the pontoon before it came down again thicker than ever. Cold, clinging, freezing fog. The decks had not thawed all day long.

Galloway coast from boat

We needed more than woolly hats to keep warm last night aboard Moonshadow. There was nothing to be seen of that lovely view this morning - all hidden by thick fog

Now we are home, there’s a log fire lit and I’m just sorting out some of the photographs taken yesterday – when the sun shone. Outside it’s cold and gloomy so it’s good to look at that photograph of Norene on deck in the sunshine.

We shall not need to wear socks in bed again tonight.

Photographing Nelson’s HMS Victory

I was once sent to photograph HMS Victory in the old dockyard at Portsmouth. For me this was a real opportunity to mix business with pleasure.

With my interest in the sea and nautical subjects, I’ve read a great deal about the history of the Royal Navy, in particular the greatest British Admiral of them all, Lord Horatio Nelson. In 1805 Nelson changed the history of the world by utterly defeating the combined fleets of France and Spain at Trafalgar.

HMS Victory gun deck

I enjoyed the complete co-operation of the Royal Navy when I photographed HMS Victory for The Sunday Times. This enabled me to use some of the sailors as subjects and bring life to the photographs

The upstart genius Napoleon was soundly thrashed, and, much to the disgust of the French ever since, French ambitions for the invasion of England and world domination were sunk in the waters off Cadiz.

HMS Victory - Nelson's quarters

To be able to sit at the writing desk used by Admiral Lord Nelson when he wrote his final letter before his death at Trafalgar was a tremendous privilege for me

The opportunity to explore and photograph Nelson’s cabin and the gun decks of HMS Victory was, for me, an absolute joy. I even sat at Nelson’s writing desk and read a facsimile of the letter he wrote just hours before the Battle of Trafalgar – and his tragic death at the moment of victory.

It is vital in situations like this to keep an totally clear idea of the photographs you want to achieve and use any enthusiasm for the subject as an asset and not a distraction. I photographed a great deal above deck, down below on the gun decks, and I even climbed the ratlines up the main mast to look down on HMS Victory from above.

Pictures were gathered systematically and thoroughly at every stage.

I have posted just a couple of the photographs here – but there were a great many taken. Once again the client was The Sunday Times.

Photography Holidays

Photography Courses

New Dates – Photography Courses October 2011

Two more dates for Photography Courses have been fixed for 2011.

OCTOBER 21-23rd

OCTOBER 28-30th

These are for fully inclusive Photography Weekends at The Selkirk Hotel, Kirkcudbright.Photographer Philip Dunn

The price of £399 includes everything – full tuition, accommodation, all meals, use of conference room and even a welcome drink of your choice. It’s a great fun weekend with loads of photography tution and lots to photograph both indoors and out.



Photo Club Prize for PhotoActive student

A beautiful photograph by Alwyn Howes LRPS, one of my former photography students, has scooped top prizes in a photography club landscape competition.

Photography competition winner Alwyn Jones

My photography course student Alwyn Jones, now working as a professional photographer, won his camera club's competition with this beautiful photograph

Alwyn’s photograph ‘Morning’ was judged  ‘Best Landscape Photograph’ and ‘Best Print’ in the Stewartry Camera Club’s latest photography competition.

It’s a great feeling when I see some of the techniques I teach during my Photography Courses are actually being put into practise…

  • Layers
  • Aerial perspective
  • Backlight

… to name only three, are beautifully interpreted in this landscape photograph, which show Carlingwark Loch, Castle Douglas, Galloway.

It gives me a tremendous buzz when my students enjoy success and Alwyn is now working as a professional photographer producing some superb work and going from strength to strength. Alwyn Howes

Well done, Alwyn.

  • Camera: NIKON D200
  • Shutter Speed: 1/125
  • Aperture f/14.0
  • ISO: 100
  • WB: Manual 4500K
  • Mode: RAW

Says Alwyn

I used a tripod used to give me best quality with self timer (I don’t usually bother with my cable release outdoors).

“The final print does show a lot more detail in the foreground black read area which has clipped to solid black in the JPEG.

“I practically always should ‘manual’ these days you will be pleased to hear! Last year I did my first wedding which everything was on ‘manual.’ Like you have often said and taught, I just find I’m more in control and more than anything else it makes me stop and think what I’m trying to do!”

Photography Courses with Philip Dunn

Street Photography – just let it happen

I’m still wading through – and scanning – some of the thousands of black & white negatives in my photography archive.

Revisiting these photographs for the first time in many years is a bit like meeting old friends again. The last time I handled some of those negatives was when I put into the film carrier of a super little Durst enlarger in my darkroom and produced a black & white print to send to The Sunday Times.

Street photography - Southport

Street photography sometimes needs persistence - I followed this photogenic couple for some time before I finally got the photograph I wanted. They never knew they had been photographed

Flash-back memories of people and places spring to life as I inspect each negative – I never had a problem interpreting a negative and usually did contact prints only for my records. I cannot always remember the names of all the people or even the exact places where I took the photographs, but, strangely, the circumstances of each situation are still fresh in my mind. I can recall many of the things people said, their responses and attitude to being photographed.

Yesterday I posted about ‘Making Pictures Happen’ and showed a photograph of a welder and some sculptures in his workshop.

Here is a photograph that needed absolutely no help whatsoever. I made it happen through sheer dogged persistence.

I spotted this lovely couple from quite a distance – how could I miss them? They just had to be photographed and it was one of those situations where the best picture was to be had by not interfering with the situation at all. I simple positioned myself near them and followed them, shooting pictures as I went along. I photographed them buying their ice-creams, chatting and watching the boats on the boating pond. They had no idea I was there snapping away. This is when candid photography, or street photography can be a real joy – and a challenge.

I suppose these days some idiot would come up with the suggestion that I was stalking them and they would send for the police. In 1990 common sense was a bit more common.

Looking through the set of negatives when I got back home I realised that this was the shot that told the story of the English seaside resort of Southport. There is a touch of whimsy and everything about the couple says they are British, particularly the man’s carrier bag. They are the epitome of English holiday makers in a seaside resort. I thought they were just lovely.

Photography Courses with Philip Dunn

Photography Holidays with Philip Dunn

Making Pictures Happen

It’s a recurring theme of mine – how to make pictures happen. I have even run weekend photography courses on this very subject – and I’m sure I’ll be running more of them in the future.

I have know some very ‘grand’ photographers who live under the delusion that they can somehow waft though the world and never have an input with what happens in front of their cameras. They are living in a dream world and they are talking idealistic tripe. The very fact that they are there with a camera can sometimes have an effect of the events they are photographing.

Making Pictures Happen

Getting your subject to mimic something within the picture can be a great way to make pictures happen and bring a touch of humour to a photograph. This photograph was used in The Independent

Any professional photographer – and  I mean newspaper, magazine, wedding or commercial, industrial, portrait, fashion any other photographer who adopts the idea that you should never make pictures happen will not make a living from photography for very long.

So it’s as well to accept right from the start that sometimes you will simply have to ‘make pictures happen’ – then you can enjoy it and make a really good job of it.

Take for example this photograph taken for The Independent a long time ago. The story was about a Birmingham welder/metal worker fabricating a sculpture for an artist. Yes, of course I photographed this chap welding and working on the metal figures it made good photographs full of sparks and life.

But the pictures lacked one vital spark – humour.

So I asked the welder – I remember he was called Mike Dennis – to put his welding torch over his shoulder and mimic the pose of the figures in the sculpture.

The result was a happy and amusing photograph that must have been appreciated by The Independent because they used it very big.

Somewhere there is a borderline between a gently humorous and meaningful photograph and a trite photographic cliche – you will have to judge carefully. Overdo things and your picture will fail.

LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE and get the best tuition available on Photography Courses with Philip Dunn

NEW – Photography Workshop Carlisle

I now have everything fixed for the first  fantastic one-day Photography Workshop based at Carlisle Cathedral. The date is set for 26th March 2011.

Yesterday – I met the lovely people at the cathedral and they really intend to help make this new venture a success. The Head Verger has even agreed to allow our photographers to use their tripods within the cathedral for one hour during the afternoon. This is a very rare privelige and one that is greatly appreciated.

Photography Courses Carlisle - ceiling

The fabulous painted ceiling of Carlisle Cathedral - a wonderful subject during you one-day photography course. This photograph was taken yesterday on a Canon G9 without a tripod - just think what you can achieve with permission to use your tripod during your photography course

I was able to spend only a very short time in the cathedral and grounds yesterday but the photographic opportunities are tremendous. Already one of my students has booked her place on the workshop – so please don’t delay if you would like a place.

We have the use of a beautiful room overlooking the cathedral and everything we need is within a just a few strides in the cathedral grounds.

The Cathedral is a very short walk from the railway station and bus station and there is lots of parking in the town if you need it.

The cost of the day is £58 which includes full tuition from me during the day. The Photography Course will start at 9.30am and finish at 4pm. The Cathedral restaurant is available for lunch, teas and coffees.

Find out more about the One Day Photography Workshop in Carlisle