Another Photo Workshop – Carlisle Cathedral

Demand for the special Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral has been tremendous, with photographers coming from all over the UK to attend. The first of these workshops is now fully booked.Photography Workshop Carlisle Cathedral

So, with the co-operation of the cathedral staff, I’ve decided to arrange another photography workshop on Saturday 12th November 2011. The price will be the same at £58 for the day.

We will be working both inside and outside this wonderful building with lots of practice for a wide range of photographic technique. This workshop is not aimed at complete beginners.

Find out more about Photography Workshops Carlisle Cathedral


Natural Light, Camera Craft & Composition

The latest one day Photography Workshop went really well on Saturday with 12 photographers coming from quite a wide area. At least one photographer travelled a considerable distance for the day and so booked a local B+B for the previous night.

photography workshop group

No, these photographers are not indulging in some strange harbourside ritual. They are practising the use of their White Balance setting in order to enhance the colours of the rusty fishing gear

Photography Workshop - using white balance

The is one of the results of using the White Balance setting to enhance the colours of a simple abstract subject. By setting the White Balance to 'shade' the yellows/reds are accentuated

There is some excellent accommodation in Kirkcudbright, so this is always a good option.

It was good to see some old friends join the Photography Workshop, including Carl Dania, who used to moderate the PhotoActive Forum. Also with us was old friend John Dean from Manchester, who has previously been on a Photography Weekend. John said he needed the day to fire up his enthusiasm again. I hope we succeeded in doing just that.

Photography Workshop - using natural light

Portraits in natural light - demonstrating the dramatic changes that can be made by subtle use of reflectors during the morning portrait session. PHOTOGRAPH BY CARL DANIA

Our morning session of portraiture in natural light proved quite an eye-opener for many of the photographers, who were amazed at how subtle alteration when using reflectors and non-reflectors could make a dramatic different in the lighting and atmosphere of the photograph.

photography courses - chimping

Photographers Hazel grant and Stephen Speirs check their images during the afternoon of street photography in Kirkcudbright

We hire the superb facilities of Kirkudbright Bowling Club for our one day photography workshops, and they just couldn’t be better suited for our purpose. We have lots of room for talks and demonstration, plus a wonderfully spacious natural light ‘studio’. We also enjoy the use of the kitchen for our tea and coffee breaks.

photography-workshop-johnWe were out and about in the afternoon in the most fabulous light – enjoying street photography, abstracts and framing exercises to improve camera craft and composition. All those with DSLRs were keen to practice the use of the manual settings on their cameras. and we did a little exercise in how to use White Balance settings to enhance colours. – We found the perfect subject for this in some rusty fishing tackle on the harbourside.

I have already had some lovely emails back from the photographers – together with some photographs taken during the day – thank you all for that.

From Stephen Spiers:
Thanks again for the excellent workshop, very enjoyable day and I learned a lot
I did use manual mode for my photo taking yesterday and this morning in the way into work, as the sun rose, I was noticing side light and the effect it had!

So some key points have stuck!

John and Hazel Grant wrote:
It was a pleasure meeting you on Saturday and having the pleasure of experiencing your excellent tuition. We now look around us with an entirely new vision, at the light in its various forms], at the landscape as a series of rectangles, looking for potential masterpieces.

Photographer Philip Dunn

Peter Mountford-Smith was good enough to send this picture of me in full 'teaching mode' during the Photography Workshop. I don't stand still for very long when I'm working with a group of photographers, so I think Peter did a really good job

Hopefully once we have had some practice we may find ourselves joining you on a trip to Minorca.

Carl Dania wrote:
Just to say how much I enjoyed the one – day ‘economy’ course yesterday. It is always good to get back to the grass roots of photography, and I have filled in a few more gaps in my technique at the same time. Altogether an excellent day, and spent in wonderful company. The Bowling Club, with it’s own ‘natural light studio’, is a tremendous facility.

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Carlisle Photography Workshop FULLY BOOKED

The Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral on March 26th is now fully booked.

Photography Course - Carlisle Cathedral window

Learn how to achieve perfect photographs of stained glass windows and how to cope with high contrast light in interior photographs

The response to all the one day Photography Workshops has been tremendous with every workshop arranged a sell out. What is especially encouraging is the number of photographers who are coming as repeats – in Carlisle, for instance, there are photographers who have been on my Photography Weekends and also my Photography Holidays.

I introduced the idea on one day photography workshops very recently and it has proved a great success. That means I shall now set to work to arrange more workshops for later in the year. I will certainly be working again with Carlisle Cathedral.

The Scotsman Magazine praises Photography Courses

The Scotsman Magazine has published an article about my Photography Courses in Scotland – and very complimentary it is too.

Scotsman staff writer Peter Ranscombe joined us  some weeks ago for one of my Weekend Photography Courses based at The Selkirk Arms Hotel here in Kirkcudbright. Peter is a keen photographer and he obviously really enjoyed his weekend.

Scotsman Magazine Photography Courses article

The article about Philip Dunn's photography courses in Scotland, which appeared in The Scotsman Magazine on Saturday Feb 26th - that's me in the picture with writer Peter Ranscombe

Under the heading ‘A Photography weekend offers the chance to take a hobby to a new level’, Peter made some very positive comments.

I (almost!) blush when I quote from his article:

“Dunn is that rare person – a cracking photographer who is also a great teacher with the patience and enthusiasm to make every member of the group feel more confident in the skills they already have and in the right frame of mind to soak up the details of more technique and tricks of the trade.”

I have been telling Norene that I am the perfect man for many years. Now I have it officially and she will have to agree.

Peter also goes on to applaud the accommodation and feed at The Selkirk Arms, where he says the staff laid on a warm welcome without being intrusive, and “… where we shared meals and laughter.”

He says: ” I was particularly taken with the quality of food in the restaurant and bistro, with the local beef and Sulwarth Brewers’ Grace real ale standing out in my mind.”

So there you go – you can enjoy a Photography Course in Scotland with the perfect man.

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Filters or Photoshop for dramatic BW landscapes?

I came across this old black and white  landscape photograph of mine recently and it reminded me just how often I used to use filters.

My camera bag always had red, orange, green and yellow filters – in fact I carried at least one of each for each different sized lens I carried. Quite a lot of extra kit. But it did get used, and I always regretted it when I decided to lighten my load by leaving the filters at home.

Landscape with red filter

An R2 red filter was used to darken the blue of the sky while leaving the white clouds white. Notice how the red filter has also darkened the green grass. Had I used a green filter, it would have lightened the tone of the grass. Nikon F3, Nikkor 24mm f/2 lens, Neopan 400 film

Now the only filters I carry are:

  • Skylight
  • Polariser
  • ND
  • Gradual Grey

With the coming of digital photography, my whole way of working changed completely. At first when I shot black and white, I shot it in Greyscale and still used all those filters. I soon learned to capture everything in colour and convert to monochrome afterwards in Photoshop – but that did require quite a mind shift on my part and it wasn’t easy.

Now, with the use of layers, levels, curves and channels, I can achieve what I want from a photograph after it has been taken.

BUT – the secret of success is always to envisage exactly what you want to achieve from a scene BEFORE you press the shutter.

In the old days of film, I knew exactly what I would do to my negative when I got it in the darkroom and put it in the enlarger. I do not subscribe to the view that you take the photograph, open it in Photoshop and then decide what you can do with it to create an effect or a degree of impact. It’s putting the cart before the horse and leads to some very ordinary photography.

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Canon pulls out – PhotoActive stays in

Canon, which normally has the biggest stand at  the Focus on Imaging show at the NEC, has pulled out just two weeks before the show.

PhotoActive stand at Focus on Imaging

As there will be lots of spare staff from the cancelled Canon stand at Focus on Imaging, I may even be able to find someone to help set up the PhotoActive stand - L48. That's me last year doing the donkey work.

However, PhotoActive, which has the smallest stand at the show will be at Focus in Imaging as usual.

A spokewoman for Canon stated that they have reassessed the company’s European marketing plan for 2011 and decided not to attend.

A spokeman for PhotoActive (me) says that if you can’t spend time on the Canon stand – come and see us on stand L48.

Christian and I may have a slight problem accommodating all the refugees from the Canon stand at once on a stand the size of the average wardrobe, so perhaps you won’t mind staggering the timing of your visits – and please be patient.

Look on the bright side – you will now have much more money to spend on the things that really matter – learning how to take better photographs and coming on a Photography Course or Photography Holiday.

Canon Powershot RIP

Thanks to Carl for the suggestion that I should actually try taking a photograph with that old Canon Powershot S500 compact camera – see yesterday’s post Sick Canon Powershot Camera

Of course – I should have thought of that, but then, the obvious sometimes escapes even the greatest minds.


canon-powershot-s500 - am I missing something, or must this old camera be thrown away?

So today I did try taking a photograph with this little camera – result zero, blank, black, nothing.

The CCD must be dead as a doornail.

I will give the camera a decent burial. It has deserved it. RIP

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Sick Canon Powershot Camera

Now don’t laugh – I have an old Canon Powershot S500 compact camera. It’s done good service and I am quite fond of it even though I also own a much newer Canon Ixus.

I am loathe to part with this little Powershot S500 but I think its day may have come.

Everything on the camera seems to work perfectly – except the LCD. I can get nothing on the screen. I can’t see the pictures I want to take, or review the pictures I have taken. The screen is all but dead. However, when I switch one the camera the Canon logo appears in full colour, and the Function item icons appear to work fine – just no image.

The ‘Disp’ (Display) buttons seems to work fine, except when I need to see the image. Then the screen is blank black.


Canon Powershot S500 - am I missing something, or must this old camera be thrown away?

This little camera is ideal for Norene to take snaps for the website during our photography courses and I hate to throw it away. I can’t be worth anything now and repairs would, I suspect, be uneconomical.

So has anyone any ideas – am I missing something terribly obvious?

Has anyone any ideas that might help?

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Headlines for Photography Workshops

The new One Day Photography Workshops have hit the headlines in the local newspaper today here in Galloway.

The Galloway News has used a half-page spread of words and pictures about Stranraer Camera Club’s visit to Kirkcudbright for the first Photography Workshop last weekend.

The truth is the big picture they used of the group was taken only to demonstrate off-camera flash to everyone. I would have arranged a few more cameras and photographic equipment on the table if I had thought ahead. It would have added a bit more atmosphere.

Now there’s fame.

Photography Workshops - Galloway News

The first of my Photography Workshops aimed at making photography courses more accessible to local people made news in The Galloway News today

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Too much Photoshop?

Following the successful one day Photography Workshop last weekend, I have received the photographs below from George Wellman, one of the members of the group from Stranraer Camera Club. George wrote some lovely comments about his day on the workshop and asked me to comment on one of the pictures he took during our day out taking pictures.

This is what George said:

“I was at the club Monday night and everybody that was there on Saturday said they had a great day and learned so much in such a short time even our more experienced photographers.

“I personally enjoyed my day immensely I came away from the day with so may idea’s. You made it fun and easy to understand and I would love to come back again to learn some more.

“We had a critique night where we had to bring in images and receive comments. I had one of the old boat from Saturday and everybody liked it but wished it had some water in the background so I used two photo’s from the same area and blended them together.
Please let me know your opinion don’t hold back I can take it!!”

Okay George – but I think you may have had a hint of my feelings on this sort of Photoshopping when I spoke at your camera club some while ago.

Photography Weekend George Wellman

This is George Wellman's original photograph. I think the composition could have been improved a little by tilting the image (only a fraction) so that the boat seems to tilt down a little less on the right. I also think I would like to see a little more space on the right of the boat - again, only a fraction

I think your original photograph No 1 was pretty good as it was, and with a whole lot less tweaking in one direction, and a little more subtle tweaking in another, it would have been even better.

For a start, it doesn’t  bother me in the slightest that water cannot be seen in the original angle. Yes it would be nice, but it might be argued that the lack of water shows conclusively that the boat is beached, abandoned, wrecked on dry land. The visual value is in the shape, colour and textures of that decaying boat.

The original composition might have been improved by very slight tilting the image so that the boat appeared to be running less downhill on the right. Also by allowing a little more space on the right, it would have emphasized that line of trees running away in the distance. This would have given the picture a greater sense of depth. The downward slope on the right is accentuated a little by the line from the right corner.

Any time I spent altering this picture in Photoshop might have been used in cloning out the building on the left, but it is not a priority.

I think even your original picture is just a little over-saturated and the colours no longer seem quite natural.

Photography Weekend George Wellman 02

George Wellman's photograph after introducing a background with water. It's okay, but it just does not convince me . George has lost that wonderful sky and introduced the tree on the right

Photograph No2 does not convince me – and you have lost that wonderful sky.

My advice to all photographers is to concentrate firstly on the light and composition of each and every subject. To explore the composition and all possible angles of that subject thoroughly and to use Photoshop as a means to interpret and emphasize what you actually saw and captured in the camera.

Just because you CAN do it in Photoshop does not mean that you HAVE to do it.

I think during my chat at the club last year I mentioned two DON’TS and one DO when using Photoshop:

  • Don’t over sharpen
  • Don’t over-saturate the colours
  • Do be subtle

So there you go George, my opinion for what it is worth.. and I still think your original photograph is a cracker. The other great plus about this photograph is that the exposure was looks spot on. It’s not an easy subject when shooting into the light – and I think you were using Manual Exposure Mode for the first time. Well done.

I’d say that whenever you feel the urge to let rip with Photoshop, pick up your camera and go and take some more photographs.

Thanks for sharing George – hope to see you and other members of the club again soon

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