8 Nov 2008

Philip Dunn's new blog

Philip Dunn has moved his blog to www.photoactive.co.uk

I'm delighted to tell you that my blog is now incorporated within my own Photoactive website. I very much hope you will continue to visit for photography advice, tips and information.

Everything seems to be running fine with the newly updated website, but if you find any glitches, please let me know. Your comments would be greatly appreciated.

The plan is to grow the Photoactive blog even further with lots more free photography tips and techniques advice.

If you subscribe to my blog, please make sure you update your Bookmark or RSS Feed.
See you over there

4 Nov 2008

Seeing photographs differently

It's been a particularly busy period with one-to-one tuition. Some photographers have come as far as Brighton in the south of England and the range of their skills and experience has been very wide-ranging: everyone from an complete beginner who brought along her new compact camera, to an experienced pro from London who wanted to learn more about using portable studio lighting on location.

The one thing that all these photographers have in common is a keenness to learn more and to get more from their photography. The other common denominator is that they all see things quite differently. I have many options for different locations here in Galloway, and I try to suit a location and subject to each photographer's particular requirements. Some, for instance want to learn more about photographing interiors, people or seascape. I simply take the photographer to the location that I believe will best suit. Even so, this means that I visit some locations more often than others - but always with different photographers.

The thing that never ceases to astound me is that each photographer will approach these subjects and photograph them in a totally different way. Yes, I know light conditions are never identical from one visit to the next, but that's not what I mean. Take Neil Murray, for instance. We went together to a part of the coast where there is an old derelict stone building. I've been their dozens of times with other photographers but none has seen it the way Neil saw it.

What was one of the first things he did? He sat in the ruined fireplace and pointed his lens up the chimney.

Okay, the picture didn't work very well, and as I watched him shooting away, I had a good idea that it wouldn't. But no way would I tell him that. Far better that he kept his enquiring eye and learnt from the ocassional failure. That way he will definitely produce something very special every now and again.

That's Neil in the photograph above

2 Nov 2008

Light and landscapes

I was out and about with a student the other day – and what a glorious autumn day it was for taking photographs. Despite the strong winds and terrible weather we’ve had recently, the trees have held on to lots of leaves and the colours are still fantastic.

We walked together down a wooded path which I’ve not used for over a year. This path meanders alongside the tidal river Dee through a stretch of oak and beech trees. It came as something of a surprise that, although I knew the path well and have taken many pictures here before, I was seeing things as if for the first time. New pictures were jumping out at me at almost every step. I was seeing new close-ups and different angles between the tree trunks; I noticed lovers’ initials and hearts carved in the bark of some of the trees, I photographed the sparkling water of the river, and hawthorn berries showing bright red against the deep blue sky. So why did it all look so different? The trees were the same and so was the river.

It was all about light. That’s what was so different. It was brighter, crisper, and striking the trees and all the other subjects at different angles to the last time I was there.

It reinforced my old theory that even though your local landscape may be very familiar to you, and you may have photographed it many times before, if you look at the same place at a different time of day, a different season and in different light conditions, it can reveal many previously unseen secrets.

Certainly my student for the day enjoyed his walk through the woods – and we took an awful lot of photographs together that lovely morning.

29 Oct 2008

Should you join a camera club?

“Should I join a camera club?  How many times must I have been asked that question by my students over the years? It is usually followed by: “I’ve heard they can be a bit sniffy about welcoming newcomers like me.”

Well my answer is always the same. Yes, join. But first, go to your local club and see if you enjoy it. Only you can decide whether or not you are made to feel welcome. I do point out that it is only fair to go to at least a couple of club nights so that you get a ‘feel’ for the atmosphere. If you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome after that, just don’t bother going back again. End of problem. If you have not been put off entirely, try another club.

A very small minority of clubs really are sniffy and not worth bothering with. Most are well worth joining. Any club is really only a group of people, and, like all groups of people, there are good and bad. A good club is made up of people who are generous with their experience and knowledge – they like to share it with members who are less experienced and they enjoy learning from others.

I am often asked to talk at camera clubs and photographic societies. It’s a job a really enjoy. Some while back I was invited to speak at the Ayr Photographic Society. There was nothing sniffy about the photographers there. Just a genuine thirst for understanding and a willingness to include photographers of all levels. The club is thriving because of this inclusive attitude. There are just a few clubs whose members could learn from this openness – they are the ones, thankfully in the minority, who treat newcomers and novices with patronising distain. The strange thing is that these sniffy clubs often produce inferior photography. Their core members are far too busy being precious to open their minds and try new ideas and techniques or to help new members.

Perhaps I’ve earned the sort of reputation that means I am unacceptable to ‘sniffy’ camera clubs, because I’ve never been invited to speak at one. 

Ayr Photographic Society

27 Oct 2008

Night photography

In yesterday's post I forgot to put a link to the other pictures that Jason took on his nighttime shoot.
Here it is
Click here

26 Oct 2008

Becoming a professional photographer

I have several professional photographers who come to me on a regular basis - some of these travel up from London for the sort of coaching that can help keep them ahead of their game. I also get a great many amateur photographers who have ambitions to turn professional. Not all these photographers have what it takes to make it in the highly competitive world of professional photography. Jason Harry came to me full of enthusiasm and brimming with the sort of energy that just couldn't fail.

Today, just a couple of years later, Jason is chief photographer of a major studio in Manchester and has 7 photographers working under him. I'm delighted to say that Jason is among the countless numbers of my students who keep in touch regularly and the other day he sent me this photograph which he has agreed I should share with you.

This is what Jason wrote:
"Here is an image from a shoot that I did on Saturday night using rear curtain sync, two 580ex mounted on a film-type boom shooting through a big brolley, cannon don't do wireless rear curtain sync but that didn't stop me I had some custom kit made up including light sens triggers that mount on my camera 580ex and repeat shoot without having to reset the damn things and using the radio pulsar transmitters means (radio waves) they (the off camera units) can be up to 100 meters from me and still trip off - even through walls.

"The light setup on camera, boom, triggers, custom kit and two units on the boom is about £2k worth of stuff, I think it is worth the spend...

"Hope you like the resulting image, ISO 400 about 1/6 sec shutter speed and f5.6 from memory... oh and the camera hand held!!!

"The image has had some cross processing on the buss colours but apart from that it is as shot, I was taught well early on to get it right in camera as much as .... possible. All the best dude."

And to you Jason. Thanks for sharing.

22 Oct 2008

Photography Holidays in Menorca dates

We've just sorted the dates and prices for the Menorca photography holidays next year and put them on the Photoactive website.
We now get so many people wanting to come back for a second - and sometimes a third time, that we now do two different itineraries - Menorca One and Menorca Two. 

1st - 8th May 2009

18th - 25th Sept 2009 

The cost for both holidays is £1030
It includes:
  • 7 nights at four star S'Algar Hotel inclusive of breakfast and dinner.
  • Airport transfers in Menorca.
  • Transport to locations in Menorca.
  • Entrance fees where necessary 
  • Welcome and farewell drinks.
  • NO single room supplement.
I really love doing these holidays and it would be great to see you.

The picture shows Jan, one of the Menorca photographers, getting a little help from one of the locals.

20 Oct 2008

Manual Exposure and buckets of water

I had a student with me the other day who was really keen to get to grips with the 'M' (Manual) exposure mode on his Nikon D60. She felt - with some justification - that having the ability to set the camera's exposure herself would enable her to get better photographs. Well, I explained that this would not necessarily follow as there are many other elements that go into creating a good picture. But I did tell her that an understanding of, and familiarity with, the manual settings on any camera would certainly mean that she would have more control and, eventually, she would be able to interpret a scene in her own way. This can often lead to better pictures.

The problem was that as she had kept the camera on a program mode for most of her photography in the past, she had little understanding of shutter speeds and aperture settings and the way they must work in harmony.

I tried very hard to explain in the simplest possible way that, for instance, an exposure of 1/125sec at f11 lets into the camera exactly the same amount of light as an exposure of 1/25osec at f8. This was part of the age-old problem that f numbers do not work logically for normal people. The fact that big apertures mean small numbers and small apertures mean big numbers is enough to confuse anyone.

And then I remembered a really old chestnut of an explanation...

With much theatrical acting, I placed an imaginary and very full bucket of water on the table in front of us. This, I said represented the correct amount of light to expose our picture correctly. The water was not sloshing out (over-exposed) nor was the bucket half full (under-exposed), it was full to the brim. Just right.

There were two ways of filling that bucket with a hose pipe (more acting) - I might use a big wide hose pipe (wide aperture) and fill the bucket very quickly (fast shutter speed). Or I could use a very small diameter hose pipe (small aperture) and trickle the water in very slowly (slow shutter speed).

Either way, I got the same amount of water in the bucket (or the same amount of light in the camera).

It worked like a charm - the penny dropped and from that moment my student understood a concept that had been totally confusing her. I do like simple.

I've posted a fair bit about using manual exposure in the past, so you could try these pages if you want to learn more...