A Recent 1to1

26th Feb 2016

I had just finished processing some recent images and was walking through to the kitchen to reward myself with a nice cup of tea when the familiar ring tone of my mobile phone started to fill the airwaves causing me to return to my computer desk and retrieve my phone from under a pile of papers, As I picked up the phone I saw a number displayed that I didn't recognise, "Hello, Chris Beard", I answered, the voice on the other end replied cheerily "Hi Chris its Stephen, I need some help with my photography are you free"?

20 minutes later I had been booked to take Stephen up to the Isle of Skye for a week, my brief was to assist him to come back home with 4 or 5 really good images and to teach him how to use his new polarising filter and neutral density graduated filters.

Why Skye and not a trip nearer to home?

Well Stephen had never been north of Gretna before and he fancied the challenge of photographing in the wild mountains of Scotland.

So what happens next?

Well as a regular photographic workshop leader I know all too well the benefits of planning a photography trip - what times are sunrise and sunset, what locations will suit these times best and what weather conditions are we likely to experience? Skye is a location I know very well having lived up in Scotland for 15 years, the weather is the key factor in any photographic trip and knowing locations to visit when the weather isn't at its best is vital to giving yourself the best opportunity of returning home with some good images. With all the planning done and gear packed the day of the drive north soon arrived, as we drove up the A82, through the Trossacks and alongside Loch Lomond the scenery was spectacular. Crystal clear blue sky, glistening white snow capping Ben Lomond it was hard not to stop and get our cameras out but we had to be at our b&b in Portree before 20:00hrs, so with heavy hearts we continued our relentless drive north.

Monday morning saw up and out before dawn for the drive up to the Quiraing, as we waited for the sun to rise we watched with heavy hearts as the clouds rolled in, now they weren't forecast! We were set up and ready, scenes carefully composed, camera settings checked and double checked and we had a mental note of how the light might illuminate our composition should the clouds part so we were ready for all eventualities. We could see the sky brightening and knew that the sun would be above the horizon but it wasn't finding any gaps in the cloud through which it could send its magical, landscape illuminating rays. Stephen went for a short walk to try and bring some life back into his cold limbs while I maintained my vigil with remote release clasped firmly in my glove shrouded fingers. Then for a brief few seconds rays of light found their way through the cloud bringing the landscape to life, I clicked the shutter as Stephen rather stiffly made his way back to his camera, too late the light was only fleeting and he had missed it. That was his first tough lesson to learn, after dragging yourself from a warm bed out into sub zero temperatures, carefully setting up your camera you can't really go wandering off no matter how cold your are when there is a chance of good light IF you want to make good images. For someone who hasn't photographed in among the mountains before he hadn't realised that you can spend a lot of time sitting and waiting, sometimes for hours for a momentary shaft of light, even though I had explained that to him as we were setting up he hadn't fully appreciated my words. A tough lesson to learn on your first morning but one that was learned well through this experience and one I doubt he would make again.

We waited on for another hour or so but the clouds refused to part so we headed back for a welcome breakfast before continuing with the rest of our day. After refueling we headed back out again, as we drove south from Portree I saw the clouds starting to break so I decided to head towards Sligachan and help Stephen get over his earlier disappointment by working on some compositional skills. As we talked through various factors to keep in mind regarding composition and practiced assessing various scenes the clouds had now almost vanished completely and so it was time to put our compositional theory into practice.

Over the next 4 days we worked on how to use ND Graduated filters and polarising filters, how to pre-visualise a finished image before making an exposure, using the right lens for image, how to select the best aperture and streamlining our work flow to ensure we take fewer images but more higher quality ones. Now Stephen is already a very good photographer with an acceptance in to 2015 Landscape Photographer of the Year but he still wanted to brush up on various techniques to help him become a better, more consistent photographer. As well as improving his technique he wanted to come home from Skye with 4 or 5 really good images, one from each day. Well despite loosing one complete day to bad weather he managed to go back home with 11 or 12 really good images which more than exceeded his goal and has had a number of his recent images printed in his local newspaper.

I got another phone call from Stephen recently, this time he told me "I am now taking some of the best images I have ever taken, I'm still buzzing and feel as if I am really on a roll with my photography". I get a real boost from seeing people improve their photography and then hearing about their post workshop successes, obviously we all have bills to pay but I would still do this job even if I didn't need the money.



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