Just updated my photography training calendar with some new Photo Treks at Buscot Park near Faringdon.
You can get more info and book your place here.
See you soon!
I like walking and I like photography. On a walk it’s great to have a wide variety of lens focal lengths; wide-angle to telephoto, to give maximum photographic flexibility. I’ve got a Lumix superzoom compact digital camera that’s really light, but the online photo library I use won’t accept images from that camera. To produce images that the library will accept I need to use a DSLR. My DSLR lenses all have large maximum apertures, and as a result they’re very heavy – not great if you are on a walk!
I’ve been looking for a “walkabout” lens for a while, and bought one last weekend. A “walkabout” lens is one that removes the need to keep changing lenses while you are walking about, as it has a large focal length range. The lens I bought is a Tamron 28-300mm. On my crop sensor Nikon DSLRs it has an equivalent focal length range of 42-450mm. It’s not that wide-angle, but it’s very light and has great telephoto “reach”. I decided to test it out…
This shot, of a jackdaw having its breakfast bacon, is a perfect example of the lens’ “reach”. It’s perched on our chimney stack, and was posing nicely in the morning sunshine. Taken from ground level @ 300mm.
The lens doesn’t have a large maximum aperture, and isn’t image-stabilised, but that just means my camera stabilisation technique will need to be up to scratch. Lots of leaning on posts, walls, fences, car roofs, etc.
Rather than using a car roof to stabilise my camera, here’s a shot of my car roof with frost on it. I used the longest focal length again, and the largest aperture, to get a small depth of field. I like the look of the out of focus areas or “bokeh”.Here’s another “bokeh” image. The morning sun melted the frost on a tree in the garden, giving lovely sunlit water droplets. I’ve set the aperture to its maximum again and focused on some branches in the foreground. The out of focus highlights in the background look beautiful.
You will have noticed from previous blog posts that I like simple images. I saw the clothes peg and a drying frosty car cover against the blue sky, and thought it would make an interesting wider angle image. As I was taking it a plane flew past high up leaving a white contrail. I quickly lined up the peg and the trail and took a few shots. It looked best cropped to a letterbox format.
This last image is of the sunset a couple of days ago. The sky went an attractive colour but needed something else to make it interesting. I took a shot of the sky and a hedge through the wobbly glass of the bathroom window. Now, instead of being a straight shot of the plain sunset sky, it’s a beautiful abstract of interlocking colours and shapes.
Thus far I am pleased with the results from my new lens. It won’t replace my professional specification lenses for creative portrait photography, but as long as I work within its limits I’m sure it’s going to be a very useful part of my photographic arsenal. It’s going to be especially useful on my Photo Treks – photography training “al fresco”.
Once again I’m pleased to report a successful Photo Trek at Buscot Park. It was last weekend and we had a “full house”. These photographic training events are great fun, and Buscot Park is a perfect venue for them. The group was terrific, with a wide range of photographic experience, and equipment ranging from a digital compact camera, to a digital SLR and lots of lenses. I assigned everyone their afternoon’s photographic projects, and we were off.
Once again, we started under the trees near the garden entrance. The exercise we do here is great for breaking the ice. It gets everyone off the “Fully Automatic” setting, and shows them the freedom that digital cameras give you. The rapid camera movement I’ve used here made for a fabulous off-centre swirl.
It has to be said that the weather at this Buscot Park Photo Trek wasn’t as good as it has been previously. The relatively bright sky made the exposure compensation exercise even more important. With this image of the garden entrance I tried to get as little of the sky in the shot as possible. Even though I did that, I had to use some positive Exposure Compensation to get the details right in the stonework.
Moving through to the walled garden, the sky was looking very threatening. It was great for photography, as the light was changing all the time. We had a really good discussion about exposure, and one delegate was dressed perfectly, in white and black, to demonstrate the fact that meters always want to turn things mid-grey.
The delegates loved the terracotta warriors. The sun came out as we reached them and it gave a really good range of light angles on the faces of the warriors. They are very easy to photograph; they don’t move and never get bored with modelling!
The clouds got even more threatening as we reached the house itself. The angling sunlight across the front of the house, with the dark rainclouds behind, made for a stunning image. There was an almost machine gun sound of shutters firing, and then, as quickly as it had come out, the sun went in. You must always take your photographic chances…
…and then it rained. Luckily it was nearly the end of the Trek, so we sheltered under a handy tree and looked at everyone’s project images. There were some stunning shots, and everyone had produced something they were pleased with.
A quick look back down the famous water garden, and another Buscot Photo Trek was over. It was our last Trek there for this year, but we hope to run some more next year, so keep checking our website for details, or sign up to our e-mail newsletter and we’ll keep you informed.
It was easy to choose a subject for this week’s blog post; last week’s Photo Trek at Buscot Park. We were at Buscot Park near Faringdon again, courtesy of Lord Faringdon, and it all came together very well. The weather, the location, and most importantly the Trek delegates, were excellent. They had a wide range of camera types, and a wide range of photographic experience.
Just before the Trek started I found a nice bit of wobbly glass and took an abstract image with my trusty Panasonic Lumix FX-500. To find out where it was taken you’ll have to visit Buscot Park for yourselves.
We started our Photo Trek near the Ticket Office, assigned the delegates their photographic projects for the afternoon, and moved on to a clump of trees nearby. Even on a bright sunny day like last Saturday it’s a great place to learn about the use of long shutter speeds and camera movement. It’s also chance for the delegates to gain the confidence to move the camera off the fully automatic settings. We had great fun with camera movement, subject movement and combining them with flash.
Here’s one of the delegates with invisible arms! It was taken with a long shutter speed as he was waving his arms up and down. There’s a little pop of flash as well to give some light in his eyes.
Our next port of call was the Four Seasons Walled Garden. It was full of colour and texture, and the sea hollies were a particular feature.
The wind was quite strong which helped the delegates to learn about the challenges of close-up plant photography, as a lot of the plants were moving around quite a lot. The sea hollies are very useful to show the changes that occur as a subject is viewed with the light falling directly onto it, or shining from behind it.
A new feature of the gardens at Buscot this year is the small army of terracotta warriors. They were a real hit with the group, as they allow practice at portrait photography, pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field.
Here’s a delegate hard at work with his Leica compact…
.. and here’s another delegate getting “up close and personal” with another terracotta warrior.
This what I meant about pattern pictures, and control of the depth of field. The front warrior is nicely sharp, and the others in the background are becoming less and less sharp.
As mentioned previously, the delegates each had a photographic project during the afternoon. The project here was “Red”. It really shows just how close some digital compact cameras will focus – there is a red leaf on the wooden bench. This macro focusing ability opens up a wealth of creative photography opportunities. You can see the image being taken here, and other images taken by the Buscot Park Photo Trek delegates on my website.
All too soon we had to return to the start point as our time at Buscot was up. I’d had a great afternoon, and so, according to their feedback, had the delegates.
We’re back at Buscot Park for another Photo Trek on Aug 14th. It’s fully booked, but there’s space on our 1-day Photo Trek on the Ridgeway near Wantage on July 31st. Loads of chances for great landscape images.
I’m running a Photo Trek at Buscot Park this weekend, so this morning, to get into the swing of things, I set myself a little challenge. It was to take as many creative images as I could in just 30 minutes. To give myself the best chance I chose a very versatile lens; a Sigma 50mm f2.8 EX macro. This lens focuses really closely, and at its maximum aperture it has a very shallow depth of field, allowing you to be very selective about which part of the image is in focus. It’s great for the simple images that I love taking.
This shot of a dandelion shows that very well. Just part of the flower is sharp and the rest, including the background, is nicely out of focus. The sky was cloudy when I took the image, with a lovely diffuse light, making it easy to keep the highlights under control.
This image is highly relevant to the village I live in, as there’s a wind farm here. What it seems to show is a child’s drawing of a wind turbine, in a yellow field, against a blue sky. It’s actually some cracked paint on the yellow arrow of a “Footpath” sign. I loved the contrast of the colours, and the fact that there’s some little tiny pieces of lichen growing in the cracks.
This image is a bit more complicated. I’m amazed at just how much information telegraph poles have on them these days. There are labels all over them, and as this one is shared with the electricity supply there’s also a big “Danger of Death” sign. I loved the way the nail in the top sign was bent over when it was put in, the fact that nothing quite lines up, and the decaying state of the letter and number labels in the bottom half of the frame. What do all these labels mean?
This shot tells a story. At the end of the street there’s a black and white post with red and white reflectors on it. It’s to protect a household gas pressure-reduction valve which is in a big green box. A few years ago someone drove over the box, and broke the valve completely off. The resulting gas leak was very noisy, and they were lucky it didn’t catch fire. The post is there to stop it happening again. The image, of the red reflector, shows just how much control over the in-focus areas the macro lens gives you, and how getting in close can produce great pattern images.
With this final image, of a clematis “Montana” plant with lovely purple flowers, I used a long shutter speed (1/5 of a second), and moved the camera during the exposure. The blurry mixture of purple and green has given a sort of “Wimbledon” feel to this abstract image.
So, there’s a selection of my 30-minute challenge images; I took lots more. Why not set yourself a challenge, and see what you can produce?
PS There’s a few places left on my Buscot Park Photo Trek on July 10th. Call me on 01793 783859 to book.
Last Saturday we had the first Photo Trek of the season down at Buscot Weir, near Faringdon in Oxfordshire. It’s a great location on the River Thames, and not too far from my photographic studio near Swindon.
When I’d researched the Buscot Weir Photo Trek I’d planned for all sorts of weather conditions, and I was delighted that the day dawned sunny, bright, and warm.
The weir pool looked peaceful in the morning light, so I shot a 6-image classic panorama, complete with swan. I used my Lumix Fx-500 digital compact, and stitched it together in Photoshop PS5. As with other Photo Treks, I took a selection of cameras; a compact, a superzoom compact, and a DSLR. Most of the time I ended up using the two compacts, as they both have full manual control, and are great for demonstrating techniques.
The trek attendees were an excellent group, with a range of photographic experience, and a range of equipment. What they had in common was a willingness to learn how to improve their photography, and they all had some great ideas during the day.
The Buscot Weir Photo Trek has an emphasis on water. The Thames splits into 3 parts at Buscot; one part going to the lock, one to a sluice, and one to the weir. There’s a lot of dramatic moving water, and it makes for great images.
This water shot was taken using my Panasonic Lumix FZ-50 superzoom compact. I chose a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second and an equivalent focal length of 420mm. The long shutter speed has given a nice blur to the water. We had to find a part of the weir out of direct sunlight, as the brightness was making selection of a long shutter speed difficult.
With this image, of water rushing under one of the sluice gates, I’ve used the bright sunshine to my advantage. The light was shining deeply into the water from the other side of the sluice, and it’s given a fantastic luminosity and colour. Shot with the FZ-50.
This image is of some rather more peaceful water. In a field near the river there’s a cattle trough. It was full to the brim with nice clean water, and for some reason it had a load of pebbles at the bottom. The sunlight playing through the water onto the pebbles made for a stunning semi-abstract image. An ideal subject for my FX-500.
Away from the weir we found a field full of grasses, buttercups, and seeded dandelions. It was hard to do the field justice by trying to photograph it all at once, so we concentrated on details. It was a perfect place to show the difference that changing your lens focal length can make.
The first image used an equivalent focal length of 24mm, and the second an equivalent focal length of 420mm. The first image gives a better idea of the relationship between the different types of plant. The second has a more abstract feel, due to the out of focus background. Which do you prefer?
This final image is of a swallow resting on electric cables at St John’s Lock which is upstream from Buscot. I loved the simple composition of one bird, the cables, and that wonderful blue sky.
So, an excellent day. The weather was great, the people were great, and it was a great learning experience.
There’s still some places on our other Photo Treks this year, so if you would like some photography tuition, ” al fresco”, why not come along?
See you soon,
What’s a Photo Trek I hear you cry? Well, it’s a fun way to have “al fresco” photography training from a professional photographer (me!), whilst enjoying a walk in a beautiful place.
On a Photo Trek I’ll show you how to see the photographic potential in the world around you, and teach you the camera techniques to get the great images you want.
So where do we go? Treks planned for this year cover such diverse areas as; Buscot Park, Savernake Forest, Lechlade & Buscot Weir, and the Ridgeway near Wantage.
Buscot Park, near Faringdon, is the home of Lord Faringdon. It has beautiful gardens and parkland, and a famous water garden designed by Harold Peto. The first Trek there for 2010 is on May 15th.
Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, is the largest privately-owned woodland in the UK. It has a collection of famous oak trees, and remnants of its role in WW2 as an ammunition store.
Lechlade and Buscot Weir show the relaxed face, and also the powerful face of the River Thames. There are lots of opportunities for photographing water, fast or slow, at Buscot Weir as there’s 2 weirs, a lock and deep pools.
The last location is on the Ridgeway above the town of Wantage. The views from the Ridgeway are spectacular, and the chalk landscape of the Marlborough Downs has its own beauty.
You don’t need to have a complicated camera to benefit from a Photo Trek. You can still get great shots with a simple compact digital camera; I use one a lot. Of course, if you do have a complicated camera you’re still welcome to come along!
All Buscot Park Photo Treks are half-day, in the afternoon. The Savernake, Lechlade & Buscot Weir, and Ridgeway Photo Treks are all-day. We’ve recently revised our programe, so please check our website to see the current dates and availability.
Do contact me if you have any questions.
Hope to see you on a Trek soon!