Friday, 17 January 2014

Those little things...

Back on November 24th I happened to be picked up by a black cab driver called Terry (I've since discovered his name) who told me all about ICM (intentional camera movement). He extolled the virtues of two photographers, Doug Chinnery and Valda Bailey. He also mentioned he undertook all night workshops in London with Doug, and he was in charge of driving the attendees around. A photography workshop by cab, that's got my name written all over it, where do I sign up?

I checked out Doug’s website and put myself down for the macro workshop at his house today. I'd never heard of Worksop before but it sounded a fair spot for a workshop. I discovered it was rather further north than I'd envisaged so opted to grab a night at the local Travelodge so I wouldn't have to get up at stupid o’clock and catch four trains plus, with alarmingly tight changing times.

So after a surprisingly nippy night, it's much chillier up north it seems, Doug's wife Liz kindly collected me from the hotel and the fun begins. There's only two of us (Doug keeps the groups small when the session is at his home to guarantee room to manoeuvre) so after a chat about experiences we start exploring the flowers Doug has set out for us. We both plump for the vibrant tulips. Doug has attached a wooden curtain rail to one of his sitting room walls 90 degrees to the large floor to ceiling window. The cunning idea is that when he's setting up as a studio, he clips large sheets of white paper forming a backdrop and extending to cover a table pushed against the wall. He explains he's not a huge fan of a tent as it so restricts your movements. When he's finished and dismantles the studio, the table is restored for dining, and a picture hangs from the wooden rail.

The respective tulips are placed in vases and we commerce finding a good angle. I've got a tiny bottle filled with water with an eye dropper and try adding some drops to the curve of the tulip petals. It's actually really challenging and Doug recommends administering the 'raindrops' with the aid of a wooden skewer. A useful tip for next time.

Next I turn my eye to the colourful autumn leaves and Doug has another tip. He carefully sellotapes my chosen leaves to the window turning the pane into a giant light box. I can squash my tripod up against the window to photograph the detail of the leaves illuminated by the sunlight.

Next it's a yellow rose which I'm determined to turn into black and white. I'm struggling to balance the vase close enough to the edge of the table to get my closeup filters to focus. I have to get so much closer than everyone else using macro lenses. I suddenly remember I've brought my new Plamp with me, a handy device for photographing stems, flowers, holding back stray branches and bring able to play around with angles. Doug hasn't seen one before and intends to add one or maybe two to his kitbag immediately. The other participant also suspects he's going to plump for a Plamp. I always wonder what my purchase will be after a photography workshop or holiday. So far my credit card is safe.

The seed head is next to be gently clamped and it was interesting varying the background and seeing the impact on the image. I think they make a beautiful diptych.

Next I'm rooting through the box of curios and selecting shells and seahorses. The first thing that catches my eye is a nautilus shell displaying that fabulous golden ratio. I shoot it from every angle and finally opt for the classic full frontal. It's such an iconic design of nature, I even detected that spiral in the yellow rose from earlier.

After a tasty lunch at a local garden centre we return just as the rain starts. The raindrops on the window give me an idea and I spend some time seeing if I can get an interesting reflection of the wrought iron table, chairs and the garden beyond in the droplets.

After that I start checking out some of the other flora. It transpires that the biggest insult of the day is if you think you've shot a photograph that IKEA might turn into a print. Though you could argue that "we should be so lucky!" The chrysanthemum could lend itself to a fine art print I think, especially in monochrome.

My final subjects are the orchids and again I decide to work on a diptyc. The entire effect is very Japanese.

I'm the only attendant now so Liz has been trying out both her new camera and new MeFoto tripod and I think I might be in trouble. I love my carbon fibre tripod but it's still bulkier than I'd like and I'm sure it could be lighter. Liz's tripod is more compact than mine as it folds back on itself and despite it not bring carbon fibre, it annoyingly lighter. I will have to check them out, I think.

I've loved the workshop today, I always learn something new and really appreciate the license to utterly immerse myself in photography and hopefully have some fine shots to add to my collection. I hope to join Doug on his workshop later this year in London, my taxi awaits!

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