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Thoughts and Ramblings

Landscape Photography Workshop - A New Venture

“We both learnt a lot from an informative and enjoyable day.  You have a lot to offer people who are keen to take better pictures, and to do this in the beautiful setting of the Lake District.  Thank you …”

Sarah and Carl

This week, half term holiday from the day job, has seen another successful step forwards with my photography. This time, however, it had nothing to do with me taking any photographs or processing them on the computer. Instead, I have been able to combine some of the skills acquired during twenty years as a teacher with my love of the outdoors and photography by running a workshop.

It is something I had thought about for quite a while and had seemed like a logical connection for me to make. How to approach the organisation of such an event was the question that allowed me to procrastinate with considerable ease. However, back in October, a couple of events took place which gave me the momentum to push ahead and get organized. Firstly, I showed some of my photographs at the Artober exhibition run by Sophia and her team at Sine Dubio Art ( http://sinedubio.co.uk/index.asp ), part of which allowed me to run a number of mini workshops. Secondly, I met up with Colin Reynolds ( http://www.colinreynoldsphotography.co.uk ), another landscape photographer based in Kendal, who was also looking at the idea of running some workshops. Running the mini workshops proved to me that the combination of skills and passion mentioned above could be successful, whilst meeting with Colin gave us both (well, certainly me) the little nudge we needed to get the ball rolling.

A common theme to developing my photography as a business seems to have been that I have no idea what I’m doing. Having spent all of my working life in public service, deciding how to move forwards with a business has placed me firmly at the bottom of a very steep learning curve but it is an experience I am enjoying. And so it was with planning the workshops, although the fact that I was planning with Colin made progress up the slope far easier from my point of view. We had long discussions about content, location, duration, marketing etc. and eventually put together a plan; a tester session to be offered to friends and colleagues to allow us to fine tune our plans, followed by a series of one day or weekend workshops.

And so it was that earlier this week we successfully ran the tester session. Mainly through our Facebook pages and word of mouth we had five clients signed up for the day. They covered a wide range of age groups and backgrounds, were all at slightly different stages of their photographic development and were all keen to get involved and learn. This keenness proved to be a real bonus as the weather tried its best to put us off. As we drove from Kendal over Shap summit, low cloud reduced the visibility down to about one hundred metres and it was raining quite heavily. However, as we turned into Swindale, the location we had chosen for the workshop, the rain stopped and there were small signs that the sun still existed. All day long we experienced this changeable weather and it is to the credit of our five pupils that they were all keen to keep learning throughout the day.

We split the day into two main sections; the morning would see us working on the mechanical aspects of using a camera whilst the afternoon concentrated on different approaches to landscape photography. Throughout the morning, the fact that our ‘pupils’ were at different stages of technical ability meant that Colin and I had to constantly fine-tune our teaching to ensure that each of them received the appropriate input and was therefore able to make the right amount of progress. The feedback we received from the group was that we had got this right and this pleased me greatly because, as with my classroom teaching, pitching lessons at the correct level for all the pupils is a vital ingredient.

The afternoon allowed Colin and I to show the group our own personal approaches to photography, which was not as self congratulatory as it might sound. Most of my photographs are colour, most of Colin’s are black and white, so we each look for and photograph different aspects of the landscape. Our aim was to share little pieces of our own thoughts and methods , briefly modeling our workflow before encouraging everyone to take what they connected with from each of us and begin to mould it into something of their own. I really enjoyed this aspect of the day as I was able to see the group start to think about what they wanted to photograph, and, more importantly from my point of view, why they wanted to do so. The group also found this enjoyable and useful in their photographic development, with one member commenting that it had been “very powerful.” I knew, then, that we had done a good job.

Colin and I are now looking to our next dates in April and May and we will be looking to build on the successes of this week’s taster workshop. These future offerings will be full weekend courses, going into the aspects covered above in much more detail than time allowed us this time. However, each of the days will also be available individually if required. More details will appear shortly on my website, as will information about other workshops I will be offering in the Lake District throughout the year. I hope you will be able to join us.

Winterbrown