Summer Night Photography Workshops – 2018 Review

Another series of Photography Workshops drew to an end in Manchester on the 26th September. It seems like ages since we started on our beginners evening in Leeds, which turned out to be the only evening where it rained! 2018 was amazingly dry and hot – it made the whole 10 workshops a joy. 

So here’s a quick review of what we covered in our Photography Workshops – I’d designed them for absolute beginners to gradually learn technical and creative skills over the months. 

Photography Workshop 1 – Leeds

“Creative camera control”

Leeds was a wet night – we met around the corn exchange and used the arches as cover. The night was all about how F-stops and focal lengths can be used creatively – blurry backgrounds and crazy close up photos were the theme! We even went into a pub for shelter – Aire Bar. 

Here are a few shots from the evening. 

Photography Workshop 2 – Bradford

“Seeing like a photographer”

Session 2 was about looking – we walk around in our daily lives and pass by literally millions of potential photos each day. So in Little Germany, we took our time – we found things like bollards and thought about how they could be used in an image. Would you use a long lens and stand back, or a wide lens and get very close? 

Seeing images is something which comes with practice, time and patience – it’s not an easy one to teach, other than to find things myself, then show them the photo I’d just taken!

Low shots from the floor, wide shots with lots of stuff in, zoomed in shots with just 1 focal point… a real eye-opener of a workshop.


Photography Workshop 3 – Burley and Ilkley

“Landscape photography – Filters”

Landscape is popular and if you’re in a decent location, you can get some fantastic shots with basic skills. So on this workshop, we built on the first 2 workshops by showing the group how Filters work. 

I demonstrated the polariser effect on water – making the reflected sky appear and disappear as you rotate it. Also ND grad filters and how they darken the sky, leaving the land alone. I even got the 10-stop filter out and showed them a 30 second shot in daylight.

The wier at burley is great – you’ve got the curved steps for starters, plus the stepping stones to use. 

Half way through we went to the Cow and Calf on Ilkley moor – the sun was going down fast so we made silhouette photos of the famous rocks, with bold red skies behind. The ball of the sun became a great focal point.

To end we went on to the rocks to find carvings – they make great foregrounds for a landscape

Photography Workshop 4 – Almscliffe Crag

“More water and boulders”

The second landscape evening started near Harewood House in at a wier on the river wharf. Here we created long exposure photos of the bubbles as they spiralled around – these leave trails and spirals, so quite surreal. 

We concentrated more and more on metering and how to use manual exposure on this workshop – quite a baffling process at first, so best to introduce it slowly over the weeks! 

After the river we went to another famous Yorkshire Crag at Almscliffe – we were treated to the best sunset of the summer to that point, it was amazing how red the sky went – right past 10PM! 


Photography Workshop 5 – Location Portraits

“How to photograph people outside – and use the location creatively”

We’d not done any portrait workshops for a few years, so invited along 5 friends to model for us around the Royal Armouries area of Leeds. We had the best turnout of the summer for this one – so split the group in to 5 pairs, each with a model. 

The main thing I wanted to share was that the easiest way to get a decent portrait is to use a long lens, zoom right in and then walk back to get the framing right – this cuts out all the background distractions you don’t want and blurs things beautifully. 

Another beautiful summers evening meant we could shoot till 10PM – so we got hundreds of great shots between us


Photography Workshop 6 – Location Portraits 2

“2 very different locations…” 

For the second portrait session, we had Nicola and Chloe doing their thing – and a little later, Andy Blue Maclaren joined in. Location 1 was park square, a sea of flowers and green – so very soft and pastoral look. In here we used trees and benches to start with – then moved on to the old police station building which was a couple of minutes away. 

The building has lots of graffiti over it, so great for a grungey background to the portraits. We did narrow depth of field portraits, looking along a wall to Chloe peeking around a corner. 

We finished off with a flash photo demonstration at the old swimming pool car park – a little taster of what you can do with speedlites




Photography Workshop 7 – Cars

“Wide shots, detail shots and flash shots… “

After 6 workshops, everyone was getting to grips with camera settings so it’s the perfect time to do the car workshop so they can try their new skills out on something totally different. 

Our friends at WY TVR Club had their meeting at the Manor Golf Club, so we met there at 7 and shot through till about 9:15 – then i got a pair of flashes out to show what you can do with 2 lights.


Photography Workshop 8 – Saltaire

“World Heritage Site – Landscape and Architecture in the same night!”

Saltaire is a real mix for the photographer. You have the river and canal for the landscape guys, the mill and chapel for the architecture people and the model village for the urban photographer. 

This workshop was a little wet at the start so we took shelter on the tow path under a bridge for a while. Here we had great refelctions of the mill in the water, so all wasn’t lost! 

After that we crossed the foot bridge over to the wier, this leads the eye to one of the mills, so its a great setup. Lots of trees have grown there recently, so the space to shoot is getting smaller each year. 

To finish off we went to the cobbled streets and captured reflections in the watery lanes. 



Photography Workshop 9 – York

“Old walls and a shambles”

By this stage, 8 workshops done, things are starting to click – exposure makes sense, composition seems easier and it’s an evening of putting it all toghether. We met near the train station this year and went to the walls for the classic view of the Minster. This gave us options to use the wall in our composition, and gradually as the sun went down, we could do longer and longer exposures to add in car light trails. 

The Minster area was closed, unfortunately, so we spent more time on the Shambles and just trying different techniques. When we got to the Shambles, we had Nicola Papperazzo on hand to do some great poses for us – we tried this both with ambient light, which was VERY low, and with a couple of bare SPEEDLITE flashes which we sat on door frames and steps! A lesson in improvisation and being flexible. 


Photography Workshop 10 – Media City

“Sunset, blue hour and night photography in the north’s canary wharf”

And the final one… the sunset and night shoot at Salford Quays. 

This was about coping with the changing light – we showed the delegates how to use LIVE VIEW and the live histogram to constantly check the exposure. 

It was also about composition. It’s an area full of features, lights and structures. So to make the most of it, you need to remember right back to lesson 2  in Bradford and use the Rule of Thirds and Lead Lines to piece together your images. 

Once it was dark, the sky became too dark for most images, so we included less and less of it as it really was wasted space. And as usual, we stayed an fair bit after 10PM – it really is that absorbing down there!


All Done

So that’s the summer in a nutshell – we’ve taken beginners and shown them the basics first, then introduced new subjects to try them on, week after week, until they leave with a firm platform from which to take their photography forward. 

We’ll be doing a similar series over the winter, maybe one per month, where we start in the cities and then take groups in to parks and maybe even moors and landscape locations to shoot at night with torches!

Watch this space

The Reality of Running Workshops

One of the most common issues we get are people asking to cancel (or come on a different workshop for no extra cost) – it could be work related, or a sick pet or anything life throws up. We have to say no in order to stay in business – hope this explains why! 

We love running workshops at McFade – it’s our way of doing photography we love AND sharing our passion for all things camera related.

But for our workshops to be worthwhile, we need to keep an eye on the numbers. Whilst it’s “fun” to do, it has to be done as a business.

This means that we always need to make decisions on whether to go ahead with a workshop based on how many are booked on the session, so I thought I’d explain how it works. 

The Base Numbers

To create a workshop, we need to work with numbers:-

  • Costs of the workshop – petrol + location hire + models + facebook adverts + misc (£)
  • Number of delegates needed
  • The actual number of delegates booked
  • “Worth doing” workshop rate (£/hr)
  • Workshop Length (h)

Example Workshop

So here’s how it works – the numbers are chosen for ease, rather than actual real values 

The plan –

  • Portrait workshop,
  • 4 hours,
  • 4 photographers and
  • 1 model

Costs = £5 (petrol) + £15 (hall hire) + £20 * 4 (model for 4 hours) = £100 COSTS

Lets say we need to make £25 per hour to make it worth while

We get the following numbers – Apologies if you’re not into spreadsheets…  

Number of delegates needed4
Number of delegates booked
“Worth doing” workshop rate (£/hr)25
Workshop Length (h)4
Model Rate20
Location costs15
Other costs5
Costs of the workshop – petrol + location hire + models + misc (£)100
Worthwhile if full (hrs * worth doing + costs)200
Costs per delegate (if full)50
Actual No. DelegatesTakingsProfitRate

So in the above workshop, we have to calculate whether it’s worth running or not.

  • With 4 delegates – £25 – definitely yes
  • With 3 delegates – £12.50 – not ideal, but maybe
  • With 1 or 2 – £0 or -£12.50 – we are making nothing or losing money, so this would be cancelled

Hopefully, you can see the impact of cancellation – in this scenario we either half our rate or would work for £0. We could of course charge

We hate saying “no” to people who have to cancel – but if we did refunds, it’s pretty likely that we’re moving from a “worthwhile” workshop to working for nothing or losing money. 

Yorkshire Coast Photo Workshop

A foggy day on the coast

Driving up to the workshop I feared the worst – a day of rain and misery, with a group of photographers huddled together keeping dry

It was grim… 

But as Americans would say, when life gives you lemons, make a G&T…. or something like that!

And that is just what we did – the fog gave us a completely different look to the previous workshops we’ve run on the coast. We got landscapes which faded to nothing in the distance. Perfect for the cliffs on the Yorkshire Coast. 

Also, we had people on the beach at Whitby which faded with distance too. It was actually magical. 

The sea was out by the time we reached Sandsend, so we had to shoot the groynes without waves splashing over them – rather using them as reflections and framing people walking by.

That’s what I love about outdoor workshops – you’re never quite sure what you’ll get, but you can ALWAYS find something to shoot – and that is the most important lesson in photography. 

Night Photography at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

Night Photography at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds

Ok, we’re really lucky to have a ruined abbey right on the edge of our city – and it’s got lots of free parking!

So each year I take a new group of photographers down there to light it up with powerful torches and sparks.

Here’s what we got up to this year – this is Feb 2018.

The group really enjoyed Light Graffiti – that’s drawing things with torches if you keep moving your body doesn’t appear in the photo, just the trace of where the torch went!


A Stunning Yorkshire Dales Day – Ribblesdale and Malham

A 1-2-1 Workshop on a Perfect Yorkshire Dales Day

You always book workshops in the Yorkshire Dales with a sense of trepidation, and prepare yourself to explain what each location looks like “when it’s not grey, raining and grim”. No such worries for this 1-2-1 session with Jonathan – perfect weather for afternoon landscapes.

Perfect for me is a breezy day where sparse clouds pass in front of the sun making patches of light and dark. We got that in spades, so instead of starting at Gordale Scar, I decided to go to Winskill instead.

This is high above the Ribble Valley, a bit of a mecca for landscape photographers these days and has:-

  • fantastic views over the valley bottom
  • limestone pavements (small ones)
  • lots of interestingly shaped walls
  • a cattle grid
  • sheep pens
  • trees and bushes

So lots of elements to play with.

Winskill Photos

These show the changing light, shot with the 70-200mm, 90mm TSe and 16-35mm lenses.

From Winskill, we headed on towards Yorkshire Dales gem Malham Tarn, a lovely drive of a couple of miles – we stopped to capture a long straight on the road. It just reminded us of the shots of American desert roads, long straights. The clouds helped too of course


To the left, was a long wall which led to a farm and tree, so we got a shot of that.

Then changing lenses to the 16-35, I used the wall to lead the eye to a shadowy Pen Y Gent in the distance

Malham Tarn

Yorkshire’s second largest lake – of 3 apparently – is Malham Tarn, it’s a barren place with a cold, windy feel to it, and can be really dramatic with the right sky.

We got a decent sky alright, and really strong sun. This is where I showed Jonathan how to use the 10 stop filter. I use a Haida 10 stop – it’s a really thin screw in filter which allows me to add on top of it my Cokin Z-pro ND Grad system, without too much vignetting even at 16mm.

Anyway – here are a couple of shots with the 10-stop

This one is with the tripod almost in the water

This is further up the bank, so you don’t get too muddy!

Also around the Tarn we got some shots of rocks which were being lit by the low sun, and a couple passing by…

This as shot at F2.8 with the 70-200, just to do something a little different to most landscapes, where you’re getting everything sharp. You can still see the second rock and wall in the distance, but the main thing is the sharp foreground.

These 2 were just walking along to the lakeside – there was a decent sky – so got this at 70mm, then converted to black and white in Lightroom

Malham Rakes

It’s definitely the most photographed tree in the dales, maybe the UK or even the world!

But it is a great place to teach people who’ve never been – so I keep going back.

The sun was perfect as we walked across the field – low, bright, orange, it was going paint one side of the rocks a lovely warm tone…. We missed it by about 30 seconds. A bank of clouds engulfed the sun leaving the scene totally in the shade. Absolutely gutted and regretting eating that sandwich earlier, we kept going anyway.

Here’s proof that the light was amazing as we approached – this is looking down the valley from the tree we were going to shoot – but you can see the light.

The classic view, where the sun is to the right and should have been lighting the right sides of the rocks… alas it’d had gone.

This was my first tilt shift shot from here – so this is 2 landscape shots stithced together. The lower one got the rocks, the upper the tree and sky.

This is from the other side – with the sun on the left of the photo. I’ve used a bit of a coloured effect on the sky for a hint of warmth…

This is the shot above without any colouring – and a tripod leg

This photo is taken facing into the sky where the sun should be – you did get a bit of warmth in the sky. I’d got bored editing it though, so put it rhough Nik Ananlog EFEX and added a warm light flare to get the misty look!

This is the natural look from the usual side – again, tilt-shift lens creating a square shot with 2 landscape shots.

End of a perfect day

We ended at the rocks as the light had abandoned us, it really was a great day and the shots in this blog are just a few of the great variations the light gave us

Do you want a day out with McFade

If you want a similar day of learning in the Yorkshire Dales, we’re always delighted to take you out for a drive around our favourite locations.

During the day we can show you everything we do, give tips on everything from using your tripod to bracketing images for HDR. It’s definitely the best way to learn if you want to get to the next level with your photography.

Just drop us a line at and we’ll organise a great 1/2 or full day out for you. 

A Wet Workshop at Malham

January’s Malham Workshop 2017

We always run a landscape workshop at Malham in January fo those who’ve got a new camera for Xmas and want to learn how to take great countryside shots in the best area of the dales.

It’s also pretty close to Leeds and Bradford, so not far to travel.

This year we had pretty grim weather, not raining all the time, but a lot of grey skies and the occasional shower.

A Slight Deviation

So when it’s grey and wet, you need a Plan B destination, for this one it was the stunning Scalebar Force, about 8 miles from Malham in the Settle direction.

Here I firstly taught the group about manual exposure – how using spot metering and a hand, can get the right exposure for most scenes! They’d never seen the technique before, so that was great.

Then we descended to the waterfall and got the shots you see here. These were my demo shots – just to show them a few ideas. I’ve got about 1000 shots of this waterfall…. so just packed the camera away and helped each delegate individually.

They’re all taken on the 5D Mark 4 with a 16-35F4 L and polariser


Here is a detail shot of the far side of the waterfall – used a longer lens to get this.

Road to Malham

After Scalebar, we headed over the Kirkby Malham road, stopping to get a few shots of the highland cattle by the road.

Just before Malham itself we stopped by the roadside to go over the metering methods again, and show them a few composition ideas. Here we have lead lines from the bottom left walls – they lead the eye to the cliff which is off centre (kinda the rule of thirds. This was taken with the 70-200mm lens.

Next we headed down to Gordale Scar – a few hadn’t seen this before, so it definitely got a WOW as we entered!

Above the main waterfall is this hole – always looks great with the stream pouring thorugh


On the way back to the cars, we got a few shots of the greens in the stream – you can see just how grey it was, note that this has been processed a LOT to get that sky detail… and has suffered a lot with halos on the sky line.

Next down to the lovely Janet’s Foss – this is around 15 feet tall and very pretty.

At the end, we were going to the famous tree on Malham Rakes, but the weather up there was horrendous – I did ask the group if they wanted to do it – but it was a resounding “no chance”. For once, I think it wasn’t worth it – the weather would have soaked the cameras and all the photos would have water spots on them.

Last Blast of Light

On the way back down from the Rakes, we got 10 minutes of warm light – really diffused through all the clouds and distant rain. We pulled over and got a few shots – all with Long Lenses.

How to edit a light painting photo FAST using LIGHTOOM

Lightroom edit of our Night Photography Workshop – Roundhay Park, Leeds

Here’s a shot from our light painting workshop in Leeds – a small but perfectly formed group of intrepid photographers gathered to paint the park red, blue, green and any other colour we had in the bag.

This photo had 3 of us with torches – blue to the left, red behind, and yellow to the right.

Luckily we had perfect skies – a decent wind with sparse clouds blowing past, this gives us a great sense of movement and they leave their trail over the sky.

The settings were :-

  • ISO 400
  • F4
  • 30 seconds

The Lightroom Video

Here’s a video showing the end-to-end edit of the photo, lots of cool tips too.


A Bavarian Lake Scene

Here’s a photo of the stunning Konigsee, part of our 2016 trip to Austria. 

It’s taken by our friend Julie Pfeiffer, who came all the way from Milwaukee to join us in Tirol. The shot is from the banks of the lake next to a beautiful church. 

Wiki Says….

  • Situated within the Berchtesgaden Alps in the municipality of Schönau am Königsee, just south of Berchtesgaden and the Austrian city of Salzburg, the Königssee is Germany’s third deepest lake. Located at a Jurassic rift, it was formed by glaciers during the last ice age. It stretches about 7.7 km (4.8 mi) in the north-south direction and is about 1.7 km (1.1 mi) across at its widest point. Except at its outlet, the Königsseer Ache at the village of Königssee, the lake similar to a fjord is surrounded by steeply rising flanks of mountains up to 2,700 m (8,900 ft), including the Watzmann massif in the west. The railway Königsseebahn served the lake from 1909 until 1965. Its last tracks were dismantled during 1971, and the station in Berchtesgaden was demolished in 2012. The only remaining element of the railway is the Königsee station (now a restaurant). The track route is mostly used as a walking path.

Before and After

Here is the colour RAW file I received, and the final edited shot – to see how I got there, just watch the video!

Watch How I Did It 

Lightroom and Photoshop – Focus Stacking Tutorial

Front to back sharpness

Here’s how it’s done!

Even at F16 with a wide lens, you can struggle to get everything sharp in a photo. If you like getting a foreground object such as a boulder or stream in your shot – the background may get blurry – of the foreground may get blurry… it depends on where you focus.

How about doing 2 shots, 1 focussed on the background and the other on the foreground?

That’s what we did here – the video takes you through how to automatically blend these 2 shots in PHOTOSHOP.

The Source Images

These were taken on a tripod with the exact same settings – just the focus point changed. I used LIVE VIEW on a canon 5D mark 3 – moving the little focus box from the leaves in one shot to the actual waterfall in the other. Hopefully, you can see the focus difference on these 2 shots


The Result

This looks pretty much the same as above, but on closer inspection, you see both the back and foreground are sharp


See how it’s done

Editing a Landscape in LIGHTROOM – Zell am See, Austria

Lightroom Edit of Zell Am See – Austria

Real-time Lightroom editing tutorial

Here’s a 10 stop shot – taken with a very dark ND filter which makes the exposure 1000 times longer. This one has a 30-second exposure.

The filter has a blue cast, so we show how to correct this – and work through each step describing “why” we make each change.

Before and After

The Video

Here’s the video with all the steps and discussion for you to learn from


What else would you like to learn about?

We hope that was useful – we’ll be doing more videos to help boost your processing, so let us know it the comments below what you’ve been struggling with.


Yorkshire Coast Photography Workshop – Photos

McFade’s Yorkshire Coast Workshop – 2016

We returned to the Yorkshire Coast for the 5th time this year – armed with cameras and tripods, out trip took us from Robin Hood’s bay to Saltburn via several stops, coffees and a bag of fish and chips.

Here is what we got up to on the Yorkshire Coast

Robin Hoods Bay

The classic Yorkshire Coast village – with a huge defence wall, rock pools and boats everywhere. We started here – and had lunch at a local chippy!




Selwick Bay

Our first stop here on a workshop – rather than Whitby, where you have too many people bustling around for you to get great photos at noon – we called in at this lovely bay.

The Nab is the iconic sea pillar you see in many of the shots.






it’s just a beach when the tide is out – but time it right, the sea comes in and makes misty patterns over the groynes, and on a good day, create huge waves which splash passing traffic.







This is always the highlight for me – a beautiful little village, with a  tidal harbour, stunning views – just a classic where you can enjoy a few hours.









Saltburn on Sea

To fininish off we stop at Saltburn – it’s on the way home, has the only Yorkshire pier which used to be lit up below the deck. Twice now it’s not been lit!

This time we had a little intro to night photography before heading back homeward bound



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Ribblesdale – Yorkshire Dales Western Diamond

Ribblesdale – a fantastic photography destination

Coming from Ribblesdale, I’m obviously biased – though I’m a good 20 miles downstream from most of these destinations

The Ribble is 70 miles long, starting at Ribblehead and entering the Irish sea at Preston. It’s a stunning journey down the valley, past Settle, Clitheroe and Ribchester – though these locations are all from Settle to Ribblehead

So here’s our pictorial guide to Ribblesdale

Above the valley

These are from above Langthwaite – take the Malham Road and you’ll find them.



Scalebar Force

A little outside of Settle on the Airton Road




Stainforth Force

A 30 minute walk from Stainforth – or you can park next to it if you’re brave!



Cattrigg Force

A steep walk out of Stainforth, or an amble down from the Malham road




Hoffman Lime Kiln

Just by the train track and road, near Stainforth – very easy access and parking



Ribblehead Station

A high station with track crossing, so you can get unique views – and park right outside it!




Ribblehead Viaduct

The best viaduct on the Settle Carlisle route – amazing in this bleak landscape



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A Few Other Views

Yorkshire’s Best Kept Secret – Knaresborough

Knaresborough Workshop Night

Yorkshire is full of little market towns, each with their market square lined with pubs.

Most would think of places like Thirsk, Bedale, Masham or Pickering – but there is one far closer to Leeds than all of those.

Knaresborough is just outside Harrogate and has all of the above. The square is a delight, there is a historic feel to the place with its huge castle ruins, and best of all for photographers, a mirror-still river which reflects a huge decorative train viaduct.

McFade’s Knaresborough Night Workshop

In September 2016, we took a group around the river area of the town – starting by the bridge at Mother Shipton’s Cave, then moving on up to the castle and back via the railway station.

We finished off by showing the delegates how the Pixel Stick works – which is always great fun!

Unfortunately, the sunset never really set fire to the sky – as this shot shows. It is the main road bridge over the river Nidd, taken from downstream.



Next we walked up the little river road and captured a few views up there as we approached the viaduct.



River Reflections

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View from the Castle


Walk back to base

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Pixel Stick on the Bridge

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People and the Pixel Stick

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The rest of the photos

Summer Nights Workshop – 2016 Review

McFade Summer Nights Workshops 2016

A look back over 12 fantastic evenings – but first some background

Where did the idea of Summer Nights Workshops come from?

Ever since I took Photography seriously I’ve regularly gone out for smaller outings – usually with 1 or 2 friends. We’d find places to go, new things to try out and gradually get loads of ideas and locations to return to.

I found that it broke the weekend up and gave us something to look forward to. Gets you out of the “office mindset” too.

But also, if you just do “a bit” at a time, then built on it regularly – your skills just blossomed and grew.

What are McFade Summer Nights Then?

When I started McFade Training I did lots of weekend trips, bigger outings which cost more and were less frequent. This is probably what most trainers do – more people are free on weekends and you do make more money!

But I’d find that if you saw people every few months, they’d probably not have had reason to go out and practice what they’d learned at the last workshop. In fact, you’d be going over the same ground again to refresh their memories.

So it gave me the idea of re-creating what I’d done with John and Dave in the “noughties” :-

  • a regular evening to look forward to
  • a different location for each session
  • a load of different skills – from towns to landscapes, people to porches.
  • a gradual build up of skills and confidence in the regulars who came

How do you get the most from these nights?

Both financially and in learning, the people who booked the whole series got the most. The evenings were over 33% less – meaning that even if you missed a few, you were still “quids in”.

Also I get to know where people’s skills lie if I see them regularly – I can introduce new things each session which build on the last session.

It also gets people out regularly – people may not go out on their own, but if they’ve got a group session each fortnight, it’s in the diary and they turn.

Obviously, those who just “dip in” to the odd workshop that appeals have a great time too – it’s just they don’t get all the benefits of regular training.

It’s a bit like a personal training session for your creative side! 

In 2017, we’re seriously considering offering this just as a “12 workshop series” – with no individual bookings. We’d love your feedback on that.

What do we do on these nights?

It’s relaxed and fun – that’s the main thing.

There are no egos or know it alls – no competitions or kit envy. It is usually people with basic DSLR cameras who just want to get better at taking photos. We’ve had a 15 year old and a few in their 70’s – there’s no age restrictions.

We try to cover a lot of ground between May and September, a comprehensive series giving people exposure to many topics, each building on the basics of photography – we usually start in towns in May, this year it was York.


We usually start in towns in May, this year it was York. Towns offer a bit of cover if it’s raining, some cool places for sunsets and they’re easy to get to and park. Also I think people rarely photograph towns – it’s a bit scary on your own – so going in group really helps people relax.

It’s dark by 10PM in May too – so you get your first taste of low light photography, which usually is a paradigm shift for most.

We also went to Saltaire – terrible weather meant we stood under a bridge for a while, but a series of creative challenges kept everyone motivated till we could shoot the weirs.


In June we did portraits. All in Leeds, all on location and with a mix of flash and natural light.

Portrait is tricky to get right when you’re new – you have someone rather than an inanimate object to photograph. Do you talk to them or what?

Well the main emphasis on the first one was using long lenses and wide apertures to avoid really busy backgrounds. That’s often the main issue with portrait – the person has all kinds of stuff going on behind them. So stand back, zoom in and blur the background was a great start.

Next was The Blues Brothers – Brian, Chris and Gareth were fantastic but the weather was appalling. We retreated to the Dark Arches and got flashes out – which wasn’t at all planned, but was “real”. Stuff like that really happens – a lot.

The group had a fantastic few hours whilst I changed batteries in the flashes as they faded!


We are in Yorkshire so Landscape is all around us – it made sense to do lots of Landscape workshops. We went to :-

  • Harewood and Almcliffe
  • Burley and Ilkley Moor
  • Pontefract, Ferrybridge and the A1 Bridge
  • Beal and Eggborough

It’s fair to say the weather was mixed for these – and Landscape really does depend on good light.

The Ferrybridge and A1 Workshop

These are all locations the people can return to on better days – but even on a grey night we got 3 great locations and proved that even a fading blue hour sky can look amazing when you know how. The pond shot below was taken on a virtually pitch black lake side!

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Beal and Eggborough

Another location roadtrip which I first did in about 2005 – this was about fields, crops and their interaction with the canals and power station.

Again, not the greatest light for it – we learned about foreground interest, balance in composition, reflections and a cool trick at sunset where you make anything you can find into a silhouette with the sky colours blurred behind it – see the thistle below.

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Harewood and Almscliffe

At last a sunny night – though it was cold on the boulders later on.

A 2 stop workshop where we showed everyone a bridge and weir we found by accident in 2008, then up to some iconic boulders near Harrogate.

Here we looked at the 10 Stop Filter, using boulders foreground interest, finding names and pools rocks and exposing for bright sun

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Burley and Ilkley Moor

This was a very unusual evening – where the sun actually created lots of problems by the weir. The sky was cloudless and therefore boring, and the sun was going stright into people’s lenses creating all kinds of flare.

A nice problem in a way I guess – a little patience and it became less of an issue. Everyone got to try the 10-stop filter for themselves, getting a very smooth water flow over 30 seconds.

The cow and calf was pretty windy and cold – we showed the team how to create great sunset silhouettes again – this time with huge boulders rather than thistles. On top of the rocks are lots of names carved into the rock so we showed how to capture those with ultra wide lenses.

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We met at a lovely golf club to take photos of the TVR club’s wonderful cars – but it poured down, a washout.

Tricky suggested we rescue the night by going to the IKEA car park – so over we went, only 10 minutes away. Unfortunately it was pretty busy in there – so I had to get everyone a safe distance away with long lenses.

Gradually the customers disappeared and we got more and more space – the cars spread out and we had a final hour of sci-fi magic. The curvy cars and ultra austere concrete of the car park made for some of the best shots we’ve made over the years.

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Bonus at Brimham Rocks

A final landscape workshop up at Brimham rocks followed. We went armed with all the night painting equipment as it’d be dark by 8:30PM.

It was a good job as the sunset never happened and the rocks were not hugely inspiring as the sky went grey. But as soon as it went dark we found our stride and introduced everone to light painting, sparks and light graffiti.

It was great fun getting everyone involved – we had red boulders, stick men and all kinds of ideas flowing.

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2 Towns to Finish Off


It’s most famous for Mother Shipton’s Cave and the railway viaduct – we photographed the latter, the cave was shut!

The Nidd was perfectly stil that night, so giving fantastic reflections for everyone. The start was at a road bridge where we had lots of boats for foreground – so the challenge was to use the boats in the composition.

After that we captured street scenes and the viaduct before climbing up to the castle – a very steep stairway which was pretty tiring, but we all got great photos of the bridge and its mirror reflection.

To end the night we had an hour of Pixel Stick fun – some Pac Man ghosts on the bridge then lots of other interactive stuff, with silhouettes and rainbows!

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Salford Quays and Media City

To finish off is a place went to photograph first in 2004 – The Lowry as it was then, but it’s graduated into Media City now.

A pastel sunset gave a lovely salmon sky as the sun set, then we were into night photography of all the amazing structures and rainbows of colour.

We actually finished at 11:20, an hour and 20 later than usual, as there was so much to shoot – a few left earlier – no one’s obliged to stay till the end!

So That’s All Folks

Summer is now over – we’ll be running weekend workshops over the winter in 2016-2017 and rebooting the Summer Nights again next year – so keep your eye out for them.

Salford Quays Workshop

Salford Quays Workshop

Media City is right on the canal network  –  so where better to teach night photography skills, a location where you get amazing architecture as well as stunning reflections in each shot.

The workshop started at sunset and went on well past the 10PM finish time… when you’re in the zone, may as well keep going!

The Technical Bit

The main skills we showed people were the basics of night shooting – which on my workshops, uses the camera’s histogram extensively. This feature baffles many – it is quite simple in reality, it’s just never been properly explained to them!

What you’re looking for is a histogram where the brightest bit (the right most end of the chart) is just touching the end. If you’re shooting RAW (and you should be!) then a little peaking is ok, this can be recovered.

With many brands, you can do this all in LIVE VIEW using a LIVE HISTOGRAM – on canon, you just press the “info” button over and over again till it appears. On Nikon, it varies a lot from model to model – we were entertained with this again on the night – yet again, it was in a new place in the menu. There were 2 Sony cameras – older ones – and we never did find a live histogram, so reviewed a shot after it was taken.

Exposure times were generally 30 seconds, especially when the water was rippling – long exposures flatten out the reflections.

The Photos

Well here are a small selection of the shots I created


Car Photography Workshop – TVR and Porsche

Grand Finale Car Photography Workshop for 2015


We’ve done 3 great Car Photography workshops this summer, the final one was at Temple Newsham in Leeds – where we have a huge car park full of puddles and a gritty feel. Something to contrast to the other workshops.

The cars were

  • TVR T350
  • TVR Wedge – 2 of these
  • TVR Tuscan
  • Porsche 911 – 2 of these

A great mix of colour, style and shape – all organised by Richard Lee, who runs the TVR club of West Yorkshire.

Photography Stuff…

Porsche at out Car Photography Workshop

Porsche at out Car Photography Workshop

The night was…

  1. demonstration on how to shoot cars from different angles (1/3 – 2/3 splits, front shots, low and high angles, etc.)
  2. use of polarisers
  3. group shots of the cars – see the 2 porsches and TVR groups
  4. single car shots at sunset – especially the Tuscan and T350
  5. Flash – full demonstration on setting up 3 modified flashes (softboxes)
  6. Flash shots for everyone – using long exposures, we had 8 lenses pointing at the cars, each getting a “burst of flash” ! 1 Trigger, 8 photos
  7. Reflection shots – Tuscan and Wedge by a huge pond, with 3 flashes lighting it
  8. Spark shots – same as the reflection shots, but with me creating “katerine wheel” sparks with wire wool in the background
  9. Light Painting – finally, a very quick demo of using torches to light subjects at night, with red and blue coloured “gels”

An awful lot of content and I’m hope it’s whetted people’s appetites for more night photography over the Autumn and Winter.


The Photos

Here they are…. a small selection from the 140 shots I got.


9 Affordable Gadgets To Transform Your Photography

Photography Kit Which Doesn’t Cost The Earth

1 – Angle Finder – £20 – £200

If you shoot low down, maybe for landscapes or createive atchitecture shots, so see through your camera, you’ll either have to lie fly on the floor or guess your compoisition. This is where your “angle finder” comes into play. It allows you to look “down” through your camera – so you don’t have to get quite so low. It saves your back, knees and I find it makes me more creative.

2 – Cable Release – £10 – £170

Really useful for people doing exposures on tripods – the act of pressing the shutter will cause a little wobble on your camera, blurry shots result. So using a cable is one solution – allowing you to press a button on a lead rather than touching the camera. Ideal for landscape and architecture in the day, and pretty much anything at night. There are affordable “intervalometers” now available which let you do many timed “things”, e.g. wait 1 minute then take 5 photos, each one second apart, each being 5 seconds…. that’s is now do-able for about £20!

3 – Polarising Filter – £20- £200

One of the only filters you can’t “fake” in photoshop, the polariser changes the light before it hits the camera – the physics of how it changes isn’t really that important, but it affects reflections. Cars become a richer and less reflective, you can see straight through water to the river bed, reflections on food can be changed and blue skies go REALLY dark!

Get a “circular” polariser if you are shooting digital – they work with the Auto Focus systems better apparently.

4 – ND Grad Filters

Do you like photos with dramatic skies?

Pretty much every landscape photographer uses ND Grad Filters – the ND stands for “neutral density”. That just means they don’t change the colours in your photo – it doesn’t make it warmer, cooler or purple!

The “Grad” bit means that they change from “clear” to “dark” gradually – so the top bit is dark, you put that over the sky. The bottom bit is clear, you put that over the land.

To use these you will need to buy:-

  • Filter Holder – Cokin P/ZPRO/XPRO or Lee are popular
  • Adaptor rings – screw this into your lens, then the filter slips on to it. One for each lens size you have, so a 77mm one would do for most canon L lenses, maybe a 58mm for the USM range etc.

5 – Tripod – £50 – £1000

Tripods are used to reduce motion blur on your photos – soft, blurry shots happen when the shutter speeds get longer – typically in lower light or indoors.

SO we use tripods to keep the camera perfectly still whilst taking the shot.

But not only that – tripods also force you to take time, to compose the shot more carefully, think more about the photo, take shots lower down, use smaller apertures…. it’s far more than “just reducing blur”.

6 – Ball Head – £70 – £1000

There are a few different head types for your tripod – the “tripod” are the “legs”, the head is the thing you put your camera on and move around.

Many use 3-way heads, which have 3 distinct levers to tweak and move around to compose your work.

I’ve always found these time consuming and restrictive – especially when the sun is setting and you have seconds to shoot before the sun goes down.

Ball heads have one “lock” knob/switch which you slacken off – the camera then becomes loose and you can move it to any angle you like. Portrait, landscape, pointing up or down, tilted…. you name it, you can do it. All this time you look through your camera and compose the shot.

Once you’re happy you just need to tighten that one switch and you’re done. It’s very very quick and easy compared to the alternative.

7 – Yongnuo Flashes and Triggers – £10 – £100

If you are curious about adding flash to photos but are on a budget, these are idea.

There are 2 choices of flash:-

  • Manual – ideal for those using them “off camera” as they are really cheap, powerful and really simple to use
  • ETTL – Lots of clever technology inside which works with your camera to calculate how much power the flash fires. More for “on camera flash”

If you are using manual off camera flashes, then got just £10 get a 603 trigger – these “talk” to the flash and tell it to “flash” when you take a photo. The flash can be 100m away and it still flashes!

8 – Flash Bender – £12 – £30

Pointing your flash straight at a person is a sin – it makes them look terrible! So there are hundreds of “modifiers” available, from humble “stofen diffusers”, gary fong light spheres and little “snoots”.

Flash Benders are a square of vinyl with wire inside – and velcro to strap it to your flash head.

These can be used in so many ways – on camera you can use them as spot lights, diffusers, flags etc. Really handy. Off camera, get one on each flash to stop unwanted light entering the camera, creating spots of light on backgrounds etc. etc.

9 – Flash Gels – £5-£20

Imagine a scene where the background would look amazing in red….

Well that’s where flash gels come in – these are transparent plastic oblongs which you fit over the end of your flash to colour the light which comes out.

They come in many many colours, the simplest are fixed with velcro. You stick little “spots” of velcro on to the gel, and put a little belt of velcro over the flash head. They stick together and that’s it.

There are also colour correction gels – where you can make the flash the same colour as street lights (orange) or maybe fluorescent tubes.


Europe’s Highest Waterfall – Krimmler, Austria


Europe’s Biggest Waterfall!

Europe’s biggest waterfall was the highlight of day 2 of our Austria trip, a trip through the usual “breathtaking” landscape (not hyperbole, it really is!) found us at the foot of this monster 1200 foot tall fall.

It’s not all in one giant cascade – but over several smaller cascades, many of which would be a few hundred feet in their own right.

It’s a fair climb through some woods to see the falls – though they have built many viewing platforms which allow you to both rest and get some shots.

Pub at the Top

As with most Austrian climbs up falls and gorges, there is a place to eat and drink at the top – you need it on this on! Very traditional food on offer – or something a little more recognisable like a schnitzel if you’re not so brave!

Here are the photos…

Fast shutter speed detail shot from the lower falls.

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Sun cascades over the lower trees on the way up the climb – long lens with wide aperture to separate the trees and fall

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The highest part of the falls, a short walk from the pub – you can climb up these, but we chose to photograph them and head back down

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A pair of middle cascades, each around 50-100 feet. A challenge to compose a shot with them both in.

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Same falls, just processed to bring out textures in the rocks

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Long lens, long exposure to get the detail and colour of the water –  a jade or green hue.

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Detail with fast shutter, taken from very close to the pub with the 70-200 lens
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The lower falls taken with 17-40mm lens, long exposure and polariser used – hence the deep blues in the sky

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Some of our group – from the left, Danny, Kirsty, Jackie, Kieth and Matt in the hat!

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Cascade just below the pub – a more covered area so better taken with the longer lenses. This used the 70-200

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Long exposure from an opening in the trees low down on the climb – we were all nice and cool, and sweat free at this point! 048 austria tirol krimler waterfall


A vista of the lower falls looking out into the valley.

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And finally – the view of the whole fall – it’s a monster, if you’re not too fit, it may be worth just driving up here and using a 500mm lens to get closer to each step of the fall!

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Fireworks Photography Tips


Here’s a selection of photos from Leeds’ Roundhay Park firework display on 5th December 2013, and a few tips on how we did them.

Get a good place to watch them


A good clear view is best, you get to watch the entire journey of all the fireworks. Too close and you may end up with some great explosion shots, but getting further away allows more options.

Don’t expose for too long


You need a long exposure, but not hugely long, because the additive effect of lots of explosions will be a burned out photo. Most of these image were 8-10 seconds, this gave them ong enough to explode to their full extent, yet not blow out. 30 second shots can end up being very busy and lose all shape.

Control the ambient light


We don’t want a bright orange sky – so it’s well worth sorting your exposure out in advance – take some photos of the sky, using ISO

100 and 10 seconds – then meter to get an aperture which leaves the sky where the fireworks appear looking dark

Pre Focus – then switch Autofocus off



Don’t risk missing an opportunity by having the camera focus system start searching when you hit the shutter. In advance, find something to focus on – a light near the firework start point is ideal. Focus on this, using Auto Focus. Now switch it off. Periodically check the focus hasn’t changed – you may knock the ring.

Use a cable release


It well worth using, your camera will move slighly if you press the shutter – so a cable stops this happening.

Enjoy the rest of the photos….

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5 Photos from Ribblesdale – the McFade Workshop

Coming from Ribblesdale, this is one I’d been looking forward to leading.

The Ribble is around 70 miles long – we were at the source, I’m from about 35 miles downstream… so it wasn’t really “my hood” – but I’ve been around Horton, Settle and Ribblehead many times so knew a few gems to show the delegates.

1 – Catrigg Force – Starting at Stainforth

Stainforth is about 3 miles out of Settle and has a handy car park in the village – you have a 1 mile walk up a steep track (it’s worth taking water to lubricate the climb!) then you wander down a little path to the top of the falls.

The gorge is a real treat, Lord of the Rings in character. The falls are in 2 distinct steps and getting up close is a slippery challenge over rocks and fallen branches.

The light levels are low, so even with a polariser (highly recommended) you can get long exposures, like the one in this shot -which was around 15-20 seconds.

_MG_0850-22 – Pen Y Gent

The most impressive of the 3 peaks when viewed from Ribblesdale, with his stepped end and “led down lion” shape, you can capture Penygent from just about anywhere and get a great shot

What you “really” need is a bit of dramatic light to get the most of it, and we were treated to a windy, cloudy day – so the patches of bright and dark changed perpetually.

The silhouette of the hill says it all to me – foreboding to climb!


3 – Stainforth Stepping Stones

If you’re heading to or from Catrigg Force, you’ll probably see these stones over the stream. You can use them as a lovely foreground and make these pseudo-olde-worldy photos. The only anachronism being the clothes the father and daughter are wearing!


4 – Ribblehead Viaduct – Magic Light

We were heading over the the Whernside end of the viaduct when the clouds parted letting through this fleeting flurry of light.

Landscape photography is often a hugely patient job – getting up at 3AM and climbing in the dark for that perfect sunrise… but just occasionally a dull day, as this had started to become, can offer up a short spell of magic.

You’ve just go to be ready for it!

So I was encouraging the delegates to get as many shots as they could and test the skills they’d learned on the workshop – we never again get light as good as this on the workshop


5 – Ribblehead Viaduct – Long Exposure

So if you’ve no light, how about trying something different – here’s a demo shot I took using a 10-stop filter, which gave me a 30 second exposure in bright day light. All the clouds had blown a long way in 30 seconds, hence the look of the sky.




22 Yorkshire Dales Photos – Ribblesdale

Where in the Yorkshire Dales is Ribblesdale?

It’s one of the major ones, with a west watershed, that starts at Ribblehead then goes via Settle into East Lancashire – ending up at Preston where it enters the Irish Sea. Most people think of Ribblesdale as a limestone heavy location, with the 3 Peaks all around – Ingleborough to the west, Whernside to the north, and Pen Y Gent to the east.

What’s it like?

It’s one of the big ones really – the most scenic part is between the staggering viaduct at Ribblehead and Settle, winding through Horton in Ribblesdale and Stainforth. There are the river and rail lines following each other all the way, waterfalls and crags all over the place. There’s a huge quarry too – not the best bit really. It’s mainly limestone though – so lots of weathered rock to play with, trees growing in improbable places and those 3 peaks to inspire.

As it flattens out you head down through a flat, pastoral landscape – lots of farms and livestock, the river slowly flowing – great for reflections.

Any highlights?

  • Well the Viaduct at Ribblehead is truly amazing – not only its size, but the location – on a desolate hill far away.
  • Waterfalls – one at Stainforth is pretty impressive
  • Huge lime kilns.
  • Patterns of walls through out the valley create some cool patterns if you get your long lens out
  • Trees, livestock, barns… typical dales fayre

Here are some Photos…

…taken on a bright sunny day, alas most of the dale from Stainforth to through horton was closed due to an accident, so most shots are taken from Little Stainforth and Ribblehead – with the middle chunk missing, I hope the people in the accident are ok. They’re in the “stock” style rather than arty images for fine art prints.

5 Other Yorkshire Locations


5 Dales in One Day

Cow and Calf, Ilkley Moor

West Burton Force – Waterfall



Lightroom Rescue in under 10 minutes…

Grim Day…

Day 1 of the summer series of workshops and we get a winter night…. in may….

It wasn’t raining too much when  we got to the reservoir, so I showed a couple of new people how to expose using a meter.

Here’s the shot I got – 4 seconds, histogram told me that the sky had not burned (I’d metered from the sky, so was expecting that!).

It was also to show the effect of a polariser on the water and long exposures on the water surface.

So you’d usually just throw these things away and return on a better night… but I thought I’d quickly use lightroom, especially the Grad tools, to see what I could drag out of the RAW file.

Shoot RAW – Always!

Were this shot as a JPG file, you’d definitely best binning it – the vast majority of useful data is thrown away “in camera” so all the enhancements below are impossible..

Unedited RAW File


Exposure and contrast tweaks


Correct verticals


Apply grad to make sky moody


Apply a grad to brighten the land


Optional Vignette – Draw eye to centre of shot


Final shot

So there you go – It’s not going to win any prizes but from a throw away shot you can drag a lot of info out of the RAW to get something with a little interest.

Discover Wensleydale

McFade Training hits Wensleydale

_MG_5412-2 Our 2013 Landscape trips have been a cold affair so far – wensleydale was no exception with show and ice in just about every shot. Meeting near Skipton then traversing Wharfdale via Kilnsey Cragg and the waterfalls near Cray, we started at West Burton Force. _MG_5123 Its setting is as beautiful as the water itself – a small cliff with jewel like icicles all over it. From here we went to the main attraction – Aysgarth, where we enjoyed the lower falls – from all angles. They are especially beautiful from below the lower falls – looking back up the cascades of water, using the pocked rock as a foreground. _MG_5281 Next was lunch – the chippy in Hawes. A proper treat, always great chips from there and gives you little break before heading out again. With the snow and ice, we had to see the Buttertubs – so headed up the 1760 foot pass to gaze down the huge holes. the waterfall was a huge column of ice, disappearing down to the foot of the tub. _MG_5273 As a bonus we popped down into Swaledale, a narrow, deep and dramatic dale just north of Wensleydale. Keld has a lovely waterfall, so we went to see what the ice had done there… it was like a cathedral of white, with icicle after icicle surrounding the place like icing around a wedding cake!  _MG_5099 As sunset approached we slowly headed back towards Semerwater, taking in a few stops for the dramatic views over to Ingleborough and the occasional sheep, standing to attention. _MG_5375  At semerwater we saw the classic “landscaper” quandry… the light seemed to have gone, so most headed back to the car to pack up… but I stuck it out a little longer, to be treated to 10 minutes of red sky. Needless to say everyone unpacked quickly and got in on the action. _MG_5295 All in all, a great day with a great group of people – and lots of new skills passed on to help them make the most of the landscape. _MG_5433

Discovering Malham

The cold doesn’t stop us.

We wrapped up warm and forged our way to Malham in the Yorkshire Dales and created great images anyway.

Our group of 5 intrepid explorers on the McFade Training “Discover Malham” workshop visited the full range of highlights the area has on offer – Scalebar Force, Highland Cattle, Janet’s Foss, Gordale scar, Malham Tarn and Malham Rakes – with opportunities to shoot the colossal Cove from afar.

Flexibility and variety is made possible with a people carrier – courtesy of Suki, who drove us around the slights – huge thanks 🙂 We can quickly stop, jump out, grab a few shots, then get back in and be on our way – getting warm!

That’s a feature of our workshops – we like to give people as much opportunity as possible. Rather than stopping in one location till “the cows come home”, we stay a sensible time then move on. The exception is of course the sunset shot… that really depends on what happens with the weather!

Great day with McFade regulars and new people – hope to see you all in Wensleydale in March!

So here’s a flavour of what we got up to….

5 ESSENTIALS every photographer MUST know before using Off Camera Flash

Off Camera Flash Essentials


Off camera flash is a popular technique at the moment, taking speedlite flashes off the camera, onto light stands and using radio transmitters to trigger them. It’s getting easier and cheaper – with budget brands bringing flash to the masses

Technically, there and awful lot to understand to get fantastic results – so here are 5 things you absolutely have to understand


1 – Understand manual exposure

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You need to understand how your camera works and “manual exposure”.

A challenge in itself if you’re not used to metering. To control the brightness of the background and the flash-lit areas, Manual Exposure is the most effective way to work.

2 – Understand where to put the light stands


How near should they be, what angle should they point, should they be high or low… you can put them pretty much anywhere in the 3-dimensional space around your model… and they all have different effects!

3 – Understand flash power


You’ll need to put your flashes in Manual power output and give work out how much power they need – the power output is in fractions of “full power”, so you get 1/1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 etc. usually down to 1/128

4 – Understand light colour


The white balance question – if you’re shooting in sunlight, it’s a different “ambient light” to that of moon light, or street lights, or fluorescent tubes…. It’s a question of “white balance”, and we have ways to change the colour of flash light to whatever we need. Or use a mix of white balances to creative effect.

5 – Understand Light “Quality”


The “shape” or “Quality” of light from your flash can be manipulated using accessories such as umbrellas, snoots, barn doors, beauty dishes, grids…. there’s a lot out there. Basically these help control the direction of light, how much it spreads, whether it’s a “soft” light (creating smooth edged shadows) or “hard” light (harsh “mid day” like shadows) – the use of these can become your signature look.

So those are the 5 areas we cover in our 1-2-1 Strobist Training – it is a lot to take in if you’re new to it, so 1-2-1 time is the most effective way to boost your skills and transform your photography.



Here’s an example set-up from a recent 1-2-1 training session in Leeds.

  1. Exposure set for a dark space – low ambient light – so higher ISO, wide aperture etc.
  2. One light was “high to the left”, the other was “low to the right”
  3. Power was low as the scene was dark and didn’t need much power output
  4. Mixed light colour – Warm (CTO) to the left, cool to the right (CTB)
  5. Hard light all around – adds drama, the hard shadow under her nose shows this

Example 2

  1. Used a very wide aperture, F1.8, so needed ND filter to lessen the light flowing into the camera – need to keep the shutter speed to 1/200th to synch with the camera
  2. Simple single light at head height
  3. Power was extremely low as using F1.8 – 1/64th power.
  4. No colour added
  5. Soft light from a shoot-through umbrella

McFade Edits.. Phil Gledhill’s “Sam” shot

As part of the Lightroom 4 exploration, we’ve been editing our student’s shots for fun – using just Lightroom 4, no plugins or photoshop.

Here’s one from the Lyric of Sam chilling on the stair with his sax…

  1. Original Shot
  2. Lift shadows with Tone sliders
  3. slight toning with duotone sliders
  4. vignette to add atmosphere
  5. selective brushwork on Sam’s Face and slight darkening around him on the walls etc.

McFade Edits Phil Gledhill’s “Chris” playing

As part of the Lightroom 4 exploration, we’ve been editing our student’s shots for fun – using just Lightroom 4, no plugins or photoshop.

Here’s one from the Lyric of Chris with his trombone on the stairs.

  1. Original Shot
  2. This shot seemed to suit mono, so started off with a black and white pre-set – went through a few till I got one which looked nice.
  3. Selective brush work to bring out detail and add light to interesting areas of the shot
  4. Added vignette to see whether it worked… down to personal taste really.

McFade Edits Phil Gledhill’s “Chris in Window” shot

As part of the Lightroom 4 exploration, we’ve been editing our student’s shots for fun – using just Lightroom 4, no plugins or photoshop.

Here’s one from the Lyric of Chris playing his trombone.

The gallery feature isn’t in the right order, but each shot has a number after it;s name “brass-band-119-3” – that number is sequential :-

  1. Original
  2. Bleach bypass preset
  3. Crop, rotate a bit and some vignette
  4. Selective darken with brush tool
  5. Alternative crop to 4

McFade Edit of Dave Goodman’s “Chris” Shot

Here’s a shot by Dave Goodman, who came on our Brass Workshop in the Lyric. It’s a shot of Chris playing Trombone on the stairs up to the projector room.

For me, the main thing here was the shadow and brick textures, so all the emphasis was dragged in that direction, leaving chris himself very shadowy.

  1. Original Image
  2. Tone and clarity added – used a GRAD effect to alter the texture on the left side of the shot
  3. Subtle change of contrast/clarity on LHS brickwork
  4. Cooled the dark tones to give more “cold” look
  5. Crop and slight vignette
  6. Selective brush tweakes

McFade Edit of Dave Goodman’s “Sam” shot

As part of the Lightroom 4 exploration, we offered to edit some of our students workshop photos to show what can be done just in light room.

So this shot is from a McFade Taster shoot where we had Sam and Chris, the brass section from Sweet Soul Blues Brothers and many other bands.

Here are the basic steps in Lightroom – click on the photo to scroll through each step:-

  1. Original Shot
  2. Tone edits
  3. Presence
  4. Curves (very little difference here actually)
  5. Crop and slight Vignette added
  6. Selective changes with brush to make sax stand out and reduce colour in background
  7. Skin and eyes selectively edited – maybe a step too far here 😉


Exposure Explained…. via Beer?

F stops, shutter speeds and ISO can be confusing.

I like to think in terms of things I understand when trying to explain difficult concepts, and it happens that beer can be roughly equated to exposure…


So the F stop relates to how fast a beer flows from the pump:-

  • Guinness takes ages, that’s got a tiny flow – so that’s a small aperture, like F16, F22 or even F35
  • Hand pulled bitter comes out really fast – that’s like a fast aperture, say F1.4 or F2.8
  • Lagers and cider are somewhere in the middle, you’re looking at F5.6-F11 there

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed relates to how long it takes to fill your glass

  • Guinness takes ages so that has a long shutter speed – maybe 30 seconds
  • Hand pulled bitter comes out really fast – so we’re talking fast shutter speeds, 1/500th second is pretty fast, though most cameras go to 1/8000th these days
  • Lagers and cider are somewhere in the middle, 1 second maybe

The link…..?

Can you see how the 2 link… a slow pouring beer like Guinness takes a long time to fill the glass, whereas a fast hand pulled beer fills the same glass in a fraction of the time. In both cases, you get a full pint, but you just need to vary the pouring time because of the different flow of the beer.

What is ISO?

What about ISO then….

Well this relates to the size of the glass!

It’s actually the “speed” of the film, the sensitivity of your camera’s sensor, but glass size is easier to think about. It’s basically how much beer you need to fill the glass.

Lets say ISO 400 = 1 Pint

  • ISO 800 is like a half pint glass – i.e. it takes HALF AS MUCH BEER to fill it – it’s twice as “fast”
  • ISO 200 is like a 2 pint glass (or a litre stein you see in bavaria) – it takes TWICE AS MUCH BEER to fill it.
  • ISO 100 would be a 4 pint glass, it takes 4 times as much to fill!
  • ISO 1600 would be a 1/4 pint glass – so it takes a quarter of the beer to fill.

Keeping up….?

So lets gather all this together in camera speak.

  • We have a “flow of beer” = Aperture
  • We have a “time the flow runs for” = Shutter speed
  • Volume of the glass we’re pouring in into = ISO

STOPS – What Are They?

All these things are related closely by a unit called a “stop” – a weird name really.

Aperture, ISO and Shutter can all varied by “stops”, but they each have different names and “steps” between them. The Stops are named as follows:-

  • Aperture Stops – F1 F1.4 F2 F2.8 F4 F5.6 F8 F11 F16 F22 etc.
  • Shutter speed Stops – (units of time, measured in seconds) 1/1000th 1/500th 1/250th 1/125th 1/60th 1/30th etc.
  • ISO Stops –  50 100 200 400 800 1600 3200

All Doubles and Halves

The Shutter speed and ISO stops double or halve when you move along the list. This is because each “stop” is “double or half” of the neighbour.

  • 1/500th has neighbours 1/250th (double the time) and 1/1000th (half the time)
  • ISO 400 has ISO 200 or ISO 800 as neighbours.

Aperture Stops Are Strange

So why does aperture look so odd?

Well its a bit more complex, but each stop is about 1.4 from the neighbours – so there is a relation ship there. (it’s to do with the square root of 2 = 1.41).

So from

  • F1 to F1.4 is 1.4 times –
  • next is F2 (that’s 1.4 * 1.4)
  • next is F2.8 – (that’s 1.4 * 2.0)
  • and so on

So what does all this mean?

You have 3 variables which control the exposure of a picture – get them wrong and you’ll get a badly exposed shot. i.e.

  • if you don’t let enough light in you get a dark shot  (or a glass that’s not full if we talk about beer)
  • if you let too much light in you get a completely useless white shot  (or a load of beer flowing over the top of the glass on to the floor)


Here’s the critical thing you need to know – if you change one of the settings by a “stop”, you double (or half) the brightness of the shot.

Yes – remember, it’s all doubles and halves

  • If you increase the shutter speed by 1 stop, the shutter stays open for twice as long and you get exactly twice as much light on the sensor (or twice as much beer in the glass)
  • If you increase the Aperture by 1 stop, the flow of light is doubled and you get exactly twice as much light on the sensor (or twice as much beer in the glass)
  • If you increase the ISO by 1 stop, the amount of light needed to get an exposure is halved and you get an images exactly twice as bright (or you reduce the size of the glass by half – but the flow of beer is the same, you just may end up with some spillage if you’re not careful!)

Practice and Learn…

Exposure is best learned by using your camera, getting curious and trying various settings – I’d recommend putting your camera in Manual exposure mode “M”, and taking lots of shots and seeing what happens – go through each Stop in turn and learn that way.

There is a lot more to it than this, but next time you’re in the pub, watch the beers being poured and think “exposure”!

Come create with me!

hi Folks,

Salford Quays, Media City and the Lowry are an amazing place to spend time with the camera, if you’ve never been it’s well worth a trip down. I was there last Friday, meeting with Lee, Eif and Paul from the Welshot team, and we managed to get some great shots to promote the next mcfade/welshot workshop. We’re taking this workshop to a new level, where we not only have a session of photography and coaching from me and the team, but also after lunch the delegates will be learning some new skills with their HDR processing.

It’s a pretty exciting workshop to run, a location that’s fantastic, a subject I love and hopefully showing people how to avoid making cartoon images from their HDR’s!

I thought the best way to approach it would be to challenge the delegates to “recreate” 10 mcfade shots, giving them a handout with the photos on and a few notes – then on the shoot, they have some goals to aim for. It’ll also give us come common shots to work on in the processing session.

So here are the shots I’ll be showing people, well challenging people, to photograph – then show them how I did it.

It’s all a bit like that “Masked Magician” show where they give away all the secrets!

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