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.

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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! 

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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

 

 

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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. 

 

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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

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