Christmas Gifts ideas for Photographers

Like it or not – Christmas is just around the corner and now really is the time to be choosing that special Christmas gift for the photographer in your life.

I have just offered a dozen ideas for Photography Gifts for Christmas. Prices start at just over a tenner so there should be something to suit all budgets.

Christmas Gifts for photographersAs you would expect, at the top of the gift list are my Photography DVDs and also the Gift Vouchers for my Photography Holidays & Photography Courses. I make no excuses for this – they really do work!

In fact the DVDs, holidays and courses have been responsible for setting many photographers on the right track for a successful career in photography. At the very least, they have enabled thousands of enthusiastic photographers to get more pleasure from their hobby.

The DVDs wrap nicely and make lovely presents to open on Christmas morning. The Gift Vouchers can be spent on any of my holidays or courses.

But there’s more in that list of a dozen ideas for Photographers’ Christmas Gifts

There are cameras, reflectors for under £15! plus software and books that will help you create great photographs.

If my ideas don’t hit the spot for you, you can also browse the PhotoActive Camera Shop

Have fun

May 2012 Menorca Holiday FULLY BOOKED


I’m sorry if your were unable to get a place on this holiday – the next Photography Holiday in Menorca is September 23-30th 2012 and there are still places available on this.

Photography Holiday Menorca BOOK NOWPlease don’t leave it too late if you would like to join us for this very special photography learning experience.

There are also places available for the Photography Cruise to Venice aboard the fabulous tall ship STAR CLIPPER in July 2012.

You will learn a huge amount on all these holidays – just watch these short video comments to hear what photographers say about the Photography Holiday in Menorca.


Two places on May Photography Holiday

There are now just two places available for the Photography Holiday in Menorca – May 2012.

So please don’t leave it much longer if you would like to join us for one of these very special photography holidays.

Photography Holidays are funThere is a full week of photography tuition and at the end of the week – you should have a sound understanding of how to capture a great set of travel photographs – no matter where you go in the world. You will stay in the lovely S’Algar Hotel AND have a great deal of fun along the way.

Menorca is the perfect training ground for travel photography.



Kirkcudbright photographs in exhibition

I’ve just been to a lovely art exhibition in Kirkcudbright.

The best way I can describe it is with the word – enchanting.

Walk For All Seasons exhibition, Kirkcudbright‘A Walk for All Seasons’ is an eclectic collection of delightfully quirky art of all media – fabrics, photography, paintings and, well, what some benighted souls might describe as junk.

King Neptune’s original orb, crown and sceptre is there to be seen in a glass case! Rusty and barnacle-encrusted it may be after being buried for so long on the beach – but surely a treasure of international significance.

The exhibition has been put together by local ladies Pauline Saul and Vivien Dania.

Photography course subject - garden shedNow, many of the photographers who come on my Photography Courses here in Kirkcudbright will have reason to thank Pauline because she and her husband Colin are owners of the extraordinary garden shed we often photograph during the photography weekend. That’s a photograph of Colin in his shed on the left.

I reckon I know where I may have seen some of the more unusual material in the exhibition before!

I was impressed by many of the exhibits – not least the tree full of birds made out of woolly gloves. Some of the photography in the exhibition also caught my eye – in particular Vivien’s pictures of the dragon fly, and another of a timber lorry. Both were excellent.

Anyway – thank you Vivien and Pauline, your exhibition is super and I hope it is a great success.

‘A Walk for All Seasons’ by Pauline and Vivien can be seen at The Tolbooth Arts Centre, Kirkcudbright until 26th November 2011. Admission is free. Don’t miss it.

Great Day at Cathedral Photography Workshop

We had a wonderful day yesterday with a smashing group of photographers enjoying another fully-booked Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral.

The weather was lovely and created some spectacular light both inside and outside the cathedral.

Photographers with tripods in Carlisle Cathedral

PhotoActive photographers enjoying the rare privilege of being able to use tripods inside Carlisle Cathedral during a Photography Workshop

As always, photographers travelled from far and wide to be with us – special thanks to Janys who was up at 4am to catch the early train from London to Carlisle. I hope she managed a snooze on the return journey. It was also nice to see several photographers local to Carlisle – these included one photographer, Allan, who used to work in the cathedral itself. I noticed he disappeared once or twice during the day, so maybe he knew some special secret corners to photograph – he wouldn’t say.

Photographer at work during Photography Workshop

Photographer Derek Jones shows his athleticism while using his Gitzo tripod during the Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral. Another member of the group, Peter Dixon watches

I have set up a Flickr Group so that the photographers can share some of the images they captured during the day and Martin has already posted some of his pictures. Very good they are, too – he has a very searching eye. I will be putting up some pictures of the group very soon. Flickr Group Carlisle Cathedral

Group of Photographers at Carlisle Cathedral
Here’s the group of photographers who joined us at Carlisle Cathedral yesterday for the Photography Workshop – yes, that’s me on the right

It was good to see some a regular friends joining us again – Anne Hughes – twice on a Menorca Photography Holiday and also Photography Weekend Break, Kirkcudbright. Derek Jones, has also been to Menorca and Kirkcudbright with us, and Janys Lomax, who has also been on a Photography Weekend Break. Anthony Ralph has also been with us before, he came to a Kirkcudbright Weekend Break. Derek has already booked to come on our Photography Cruise to Venice aboard the tall ship, Star Clipper next July.

Photography Workshop-interiors

Photographer Martin Curran finds a makeshift camera rest while photographing the interior of Carlisle Cathedral

I’m delighted to say that for the first time in many months, Norene was able to join us for a day. She is now recovering very well after her illness and we hope she will soon be back to full strength. It is because Norene has been so unwell recently that we have been very slow in arranging another Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral. I hope to get something fixed up this coming week. So if you have missed out on this latest workshop perhaps you will be able to join us for the next one.

The situation at Carlisle Cathedral could not be better for photographers. We enjoy the facility of a superb room in the Prior’s Tower in the cathedral grounds; there is an excellent cafe and the staff in the cathedral could not be more helpful – and we have the rare privilege of being allowed to use our tripods for an hour inside the cathedral during the afternoon.

Find out more about these Photography Workshops

How to recover burned-out highlights

Can you recover data in a photograph with over-exposed highlights? Well, yes you can. PhotoActive student Steve McGregor explains how

I was pleased to receive this short article from one of my students Steve McGregor, who came to one of my One-Day Photography Workshops at Carlisle Cathedral earlier this year.

I have always been of the opinion that once highlights were over exposed or ‘blown-out’ there was little that could be done to retrieve the image information within those highlights, and that the photograph was really a lost cause. Well, Steve has been doing some experimenting – with a photograph he took during that Photography Workshops – and he’s come up with some surprising results.

I hasten to add that the results Steve has achieve apply only to images shot in RAW. There is little or nothing that can be done with the ‘blown-out’ highlights of a jpeg image, and unless it is of a truly unrepeatable subject, it is best binned.

I certainly stand by my teaching maxim that it is best to get it right in the camera FIRST. Then you won’t need to play with the image in the computer.

Thank you Steve – both for the information and for allowing me to share it on the PhotoActive blog.

Recovering overexposed highlights in a RAW image
by Steve McGregor

Photographer Steve McGregor

Photographer Steve McGregor at work during the Photography Workshop at Carlisle Cathedral

I have been taking photos in RAW mode for almost 5 years, for a most of that time I really am not sure I knew what I was doing!

I have read many articles over the years and the impression that I have had is that if the highlights are blown then the information in that area is irretrievable. If that is how you understand it then the following may be of interest.

I use Adobe Lightroom 3 and have used a version of Lightroom since July 2007. When taking photos I tend to underexpose, using the histogram on the camera display to try and ensure that the highlights aren’t blown. I then use Lightroom’s ‘Brightness’ and ‘Exposure’ controls to lighten the photo to the correct overall exposure.

So why have I been writing all this? Wel,l let me try and explain my findings…

I was on a One Day Photography Workshop with Philip Dunn at Carlisle Cathedral, we were experimenting with manual exposure. During part of the day we were to take some photos of people in public places. Through a gate came a small group and I ‘snapped’ them, unfortunately I was still in manual exposure mode it was over exposed. Normally I would just delete it and take another but there wasn’t time and when I arrived home I ended up importing it into Adobe Lightroom.

PHOTOGRAPH 1:  As you can see, this photograph is over-exposed, but let’s look more closely at the white dress of lady in the centre
Overexposed white dress

PHOTOGRAPH 2: There has been no processing of this image other than cropping. The detailin that white dress really is ‘blown out’
Overexposed in Raw image - highlights in red

PHOTOGRAPH 3: All I have done here is to turn on the ‘highlight’ button, this indicates where the image is burnt out and where no ‘data’ can be found
Recovered highlights in RAW image
PHOTOGRAPH 4: With the exposure reduced by 1 full f stop, the whites now contain detail, texture and shadows – a perfectly acceptable image

So what I did next was to reduce the Brightness by ’48’ and the ‘Exposure’ by 1 stop

This is how the dress then looked – see PHOTOGRAPH 4.

You can now see the pleats in the dress and the richness of its colour and this is where there was no data to be seen before, and the highlights were blown.

I hasten to add that I have no idea why this has happened but I guessed that it may be of interest to those of you who thought, like me, that an overexposed shot is only fit for the recycle bin.

Steve McGregor

Thank you again Steve – I reckon that’s apretty convincing demosntration of how effectively ‘blown’ highlights can be recovered when you shoot RAW images.

Find out more about Photography Courses with Philip Dunn

PhotoActive student shoots Veteran Car Run

PhotoActive student Gerwyn Jones was out and about with his camera at the weekend – shooting the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.

Gerwyn, has twice been to Menorca for the Photography Holiday – and he is coming again next May. I have seen his photography improve each time. In fact, when he came to Menorca in September this year, Gerwyn won one of our coveted ‘Light Monkey Awards’ – partly for the tremendous advances he made in his photography, but also for being such a lovely bloke to have in the group.

Veteran Car Run - I love the expression on the lady's face. This photograph has a super atmsophere

Veteran Car Run - I love the expression on the lady's face. This photograph has a super atmosphere. Photograph by Gerwyn Jones

Gerwyn tells me that one of the reasons he went to photograph the Veteran Car Run was to put into practice some of the techniques he had learned in Menorca. He also wanted to change some of the settings on his camera, experiment with the results and to practice the use of flash – all techniques we cover during the Photography Holidays.

Veteran Car Run start of London to Brighton

Once again, Gerwyn has got the timing just right and has captured a really happy laugh on the driver's face. Photography by Gerwyn Jones

Gerwyn took the Veteran Car Run photographs with his Nikon D300 using a f/2.8 70-200mm lens. He used an ISO setting of 400 most of the time, but he tells me he did try several ISO settings.

Said Gerwyn; “I am pleased to say some of the things I have learnt in Menorca have changed my way of thinking and I was very pleased to bring home the Light Monkey”.

The downside of covering the Veteran Car Run was having to get up at 4.15 in the morning in order to get to the start line on time.

What I like particularly about Gerwyn’s photographs is that he has managed to capture something of the atmosphere of the Vereran Car Run. This are not just dry images of old cars – they are also photographs about the people who enjoy them – exactly the aims of many of the photography shoots we do in Menorca during the holidays.

The next Photography Holiday in Menorca is May 2012 – there are now just 5 places available, so please confirm your place now.