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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.