|Andy’s shot of Dave. OK, but could have been better…|
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You could spend money on the best camera you can afford, and travel to the most beautiful places in the world but if you, like me, are a slave to Green Mode and think that pointing and clicking will make your friends coo at your Flickr site, then think again.
Frustrated by being pleased by my own photos but blown-away by other people’s, I sought out an outdoor photography day course and found the affable Dave Willis of Mountainsportphoto.com, based in the Lake District of the UK.
|…and Dave’s shot from the same location.|
I had a Canon 350D with the standard 18-55mm lens and an extra 55-200mm lens, and enough knowledge to point and shoot but not a lot more. Armed with that knowledge, Dave picked me up and we drove up into the hills of the Lake District for a very hands-on, comfortably paced day behind the lens.
After a simple explanation of all those scary symbols on the camera’s dials, within minutes we were scrambling down a river-bank and experimenting with shutter speeds next to a fast-flowing river. It became obvious that what a theory book takes hours of reading and practice to convey, a hands-on tutorial can get across in minutes. It just clicked. Like my camera did. Lots.
The day continued at a leisurely, yet focussed pace through close-up, landscape, bright, shady, action and still-life photography and how to use the camera best in each scenario. And a small tour of some of the English Lake District’s stunning scenery wasn’t bad either.
|Andy’s attempt to copy Dave’s landscape…|
One of the most useful experiences were the ‘Versus’ demonstations. Dave would pick a location and give me 10 minutes to scout out ‘THE’ shot I wanted. He would then take the same shot and show me how, and more importantly why, the shot could be improved. You can see some direct comparison shots here.
Far from making you feel bad about your photos, Dave has that knack of picking out the positives, and with the aid of his trusty notebook and 4B pencil, sketching out what would make the good even better.
|…and Dave’s somewhat more dramatic original.|
Unlike some training days, the pace is set very much by the client. On the occasions when I had a brain-fart, we’d go back over things, but in a different way. For example ‘backgrounds’. Dave has a great saying; “Backgrounds ruin photos”, and he’s absolutely right. If I learnt one thing from the day it is that there are 100 non-shots for every one-shot. My Flickr account is all the slimmer, and better for that!
Dave’s site (www.mountainsportphoto.com) show his workshop prices as £115 per person, per day.
I was so impressed by the difference in my own understanding and enjoyment of outdoor photography by the day’s course that I have recommended it to many friends, one of whom did a course a couple of weeks ago and has since bought a couple of new lenses, such is her new found love of photography.
SUMMARY: If you want to get more from your photography in the outdoors, rather than spend £40 on a book, spend a bit more and get a 1-1 hands-on day’s tuition. I got better results, more confidence and far more understanding of my camera and my own abilities. Worth every penny. Although be warned, you may want to go out and upgrade your kit afterwards!
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