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Friday 24 January 2014

Welcome! Have a seat, let's get started...

So, you'd like to learn a bit more about photography? Great. You've come to the right place.

What we have here is a complete photography starter course and it's for free! Can't get better value than that eh?

You might want a bit of personal one-to-one coaching as well. I can do that too. That's not free of course. But it is fun. See the Workshop link below for details of how to book a personal photography day out - not as expensive as you might think. Anyway, on with the free stuff.

To get started, look at the Blog Archive panel over there on the right. Go to the "2012" and the "March" archive and down there, right at the bottom is Week 1. All the weeks are linked in order so just work your way through. Feel free to add comments on the blog and get in touch if you would like to learn more through my workshops and training courses. Good luck and enjoy...

Monday 17 December 2012

Looking for a photography workshop for yourself or your family?
Love the Lake District?
Well, look no further.
In association with Lakeland Walker magazine, we offer workshops that are bespoke, one-to-one and taylor made to meet your needs.

£140 per person full day
£70 per person half day

Gift vouchers are available.

Day-in-the-life-of a Mountainsport Photography Workshop with Dave Willis:

It's always nice to spend a day with students who are learning their cameras, because they are like a blank canvas or in this case perhaps a "clean slate" would be a more appropriate allusion, seeing as we headed for the amazing slate quarries of the Little Langdale valley, here in the Lake District.

We start out by getting a handle on the camera controls and buttons and setting up the camera to give us consistent results. Then we can get going.

On this occasion the plan would be to head out through some woodland to Little Langdale tarn and up to the Black Hole and Hodge Close quarries which have some surprising caves and arches to photograph, useful when the weather forecast is changeable. In the event, the sun stayed out and we found ourselves able to shoot landscapes as well, but the quarries proved a great success for my guys, who were very keen on abstract forms.

We talked about depth of field and aperture priority with some nice examples of short depth of field details in the woods and then some max DoF over at Little Langdale tarn.

Working through the camera modes led to a discussion about how depth of focus and depth of field are related and linked and I think this something that is often overlooked when the subject is discussed. I have a simple experiment that I get students to do called the "finger experiment" that really brings home how depth of field and depth of focus work together - you'll have to join a workshop to find out what it is!

Moving into the quarries, I was aiming to break out the tripods and talk about shutter speed as a creative tool for motion control with some moving water. I spend time drumming into students how important it is to think about camera shake every time you pick up the camera - that's why we carry a tripod after all - so we can use those slow shutter speeds effectively.

While we looked for some interesting abstract patterns and details in the rock walls, which could have kept us entertained all day actually, we had a chance to consider  what really makes a great photograph. Fundamentally, in my view it comes down to three things.

1: Most (but not every) photo needs a strong focal point. Without it the viewer is struggling to identify what they are supposed to be looking at. If your photo doesn't have one, it had better have something else which is strong enough to carry the picture - could be amazing light, strong repeating pattern or abstract form or it could vibrant colour patterns, whatever, it needs something. Here, I'll show you what I mean:

We shot this landscape later in the day. Can you spot the strong focal point? Course you can - that juniper (or whatever it is) just stands right out as the starting point, in other words the focal point for this composition, doesn't it? That's what you need.

2: Backgrounds ruin pictures! Oh yes. Look at it this way. You spend ages choosing, organizing and composing your subject. You think about it carefully and try to do the best job you can with it., The one thing you didn't  maybe even consider was the background. But the background is where all the clutter, mess, distracting details and litter is going to be. Do you really want all those parked cars, telephone wires, bins, people wearing lurid colours in the background, taking the eye away from your carefully chosen subject? Thought not. So...backgrounds ruin pictures - choose them with care.

3: KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid! Do you like this picture? Simple isn't it. The less you put into your composition the clearer, more direct and easier to understand it will become. It will be eye-catching. Many of us just put too much confusing stuff into our photos. Git rid, simplify, pair it down.

Let's apply all three of those principles to this shot:
Does it have a strong focal point? Yes.
Does it have a good background? Yes, just the door.
Is it simple? Too right.
See, easy isn't it.

Fancy a go yourself? you can book a personal one-on-one workshop any day you like, long as I'm free on that day. It costs £135 per person and we do whatever you need to do to get your camera and creative skills up to speed.

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Week 18: Recommended camera settings

This the final post in this 15 week free photography course.
Start at Week 1 and work your way through.
To find Week 1, use the navigation panel over there on the right, or search through "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page.

So, for those readers who have done all the work and got this far:
This might seem an odd place to finally get around to spelling out all the camera settings that I recommend...And it is! But in my defence, if I did this right at the beginning, before students had a grasp on the fundamentals of photography and why things work they way they do, it might seem a bit arbitrary and meaningless. Anyway, we've had plenty of other stuff to get our heads around. So, here goes...

Monday 2 April 2012

Week 17: Assignment 4 A flash of inspiration

Modern film and digital camera’s use three basic ways of measuring and controlling flash exposure so let’s have a look at them.

Week 16: Assignment 3 Differential focusing

One essential skill that we need to master is called differential focusing.

It's not really about using a specific camera control or setting, but rather it's about how we use a combination of depth of field, composition and thinking about how the subject we are photographing will look to the viewer.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Week 15 Assignment 2 Creative use of apertures

Before we set off on assignment 2, let's just take a moment to remind ourselves what apertures are really all about; Depth of Field.

Saturday 10 March 2012

Week 14: Assignment 1 Creative use of Shutter Speeds

If this is the first post you are reading on The Complete Level 2 Photography Course, stop! Read the preceding 13 posts first!

Here it is, the first assignment. It's pretty easy really. Won't take too much time. All you have to do is research, plan, test and shoot two photographs. The first will be "creative use of a fast shutter speed" and the second will be, you guessed it, "creative use of a slow shutter speed". By "creative use" I mean thinking up a shot that really uses the attributes and benefits of shutter speeds to create a picture that looks great.