Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Welshot London Weekend - November 2011

I was fortunate enough to attend the recent Welshot Photography weekend held down in London. The event actually started on Friday evening but I got the early morning train to London on Saturday and met the gang in their Hotel at 08:30am.

Once all the introductions were complete we went down to Borough Market (near London Bridge station) where we met the rest of the delegates.

There were five delegates including myself and we were being guided and educated by Eifion Williams of Welshot, John Arnold of and Will Cheung Editor of Advanced Photographer magazine. We were all being looked after by the amazing Lee Iggulden who made sure we were photographing as much as possible.

We were set a few challenges by the ever creative John Arnold. Challenges for each location, each day and the weekend as a whole were intended to help us focus on specific tasks but we were free to photograph anything we wanted to as well.

Borough Market is a very lively market set indoors & outdoors. It is easy to see why the market is so popular for shoppers and photographers alike. The place offers everything you can think of and we were lucky enough to be there on a particularly busy day. The place is so alive with sights, sounds and smells that you really are spoilt for choice. We had a couple of hours in the market and although I've not seen anyone else’s images I'm sure everyone got some great shots.

The market is great for candid shots of shoppers and traders alike. But with such a wide variety of wares on sale there are plenty of opportunities to get in close and capture the details.

One comment I would make is that the traders work really hard and keep everybody topped up with free samples of food and drink. So, as a courtesy, if you do visit to take pictures please respect them and try not to get in their way. You can always ask if you want a specific shot, the worse they can do is say no.

From Borough market we wandered up to the river and took a breather next to the Golden Hind before jumping on a clipper to take us over to Canary Wharf.

Canary Wharf is a fantastic location for architecture photography but bear in mind that it is private property. We had a couple of hours to go before sunset so armed with a Starbucks for fuel I had a good walk around snapping away before eventually resisting temptation and popping into one of the Pubs for a quick one. We met up again at 4pm for a quick catch up and then set off again to do some more shots in the dark. Now that sun had gone we were able to play with light trails and long exposures etc.

Once we were all exhausted we retired to a local pub for a well earned (and very nice) meal. We also managed a few drinks as well before returning to base for some light drawing. Having found an area dark enough we had a go at making this year’s Welshot Christmas card. John Arnold did a fantastic job with the torch and we soon had all of the wording in the bag. We then retired to the Welshot hotel were John then gave a lesson in merging images in Photoshop. (these guys never stop)

The next morning we all met up at the Welshot Hotel again where we were also met by the lovely Radha Patel (Model) . We then headed off to the famous "Banksy Tunnel". This is actually Leake Street which is located underneath Waterloo Station.

Leake Street is a fantastic location for a model shoot and this is where Welshot had chosen for us to get a lesson in off camera lighting from Will Cheung. As well as the model shoot there was plenty of street art to photograph and even some artists at work.

There was plenty of time for us all to have a couple of goes using the lighting to get photos of Radha as well as getting some shots of the art work and location in general. The Street Artists were a great bunch of guys and didn’t mind us being there at all. They were quite happy for us to watch them and take pictures but I would point out that some don’t want their picture taken. It always helps to have a chat first and get to know people as they were really friendly and allowed us into their space. Had we just started snapping away without any warning then it might have been different.

After several hundred shots the paint fumes were starting to take effect so we waved goodbye to our fantastic Model Radha and then continued with our expedition. The next stop wasn’t that far as the Embankment and London eye were literally across the road. We had a quick 15 minutes at the London eye so we had enough time for a few shots and a refuel.

We then headed along the Embankment which was very busy as there was a huge Christmas Fayre selling all sorts of things, the most popular being mulled wine of course. Our next pit stop was the Skateboard/BMX Park at Southbank. The park was quite busy with skaters, bmx’ers and even a group making a music video. The location provided opportunities for action shots against a backdrop of yet more street art.

From the Skate Park we headed over to Waterloo station and caught the tube up Trafalgar Square. We had around 30-45 minutes here before the light started to fade. It was a great chance for more candid’s as well as architecture shots. Luckily there were no major events being held in the square but there was a smaller demonstration taking place which was another great photo opportunity.

After our fill of shots from Trafalgar Square we then walked across to Covent Garden. This was to be last location for us. Although the light was going fast the place was buzzing and we had time to go and capture shots of the location, shoppers and street entertainers. Eventually I succumbed to temptation and packed the camera away so I could do a bit of shopping. I was then the last one to arrive in the Pub where everyone had met up for a final drink and chat.

Alas, that was the end of the Welshot Weekend in London. I hope that this gives you a good idea of what a Welshot workshop is like. I had a great time meeting new people, learning new things, seeing new places and spending a lot of time talking nothing but photography.

The Welshot gang have helped take a step further on my Photographic journey and the experience has given me a great deal to work on as I try and move my skills forward.

Big thanks to Eifion Williams, John Arnold, Will Cheung, Radha Patel and of course the wonderful Lee Iggulden.

Reference info;



Thursday, 4 August 2011

Welshot Imaging - Promotional Day, Chester UK. 31st July 2011

Love Photography....Join Us

This was the message to the people of Chester on Sunday 31st July 2011.  A group of us descended on the City Centre (taking advantage of Race Day) to promote Welshot Imaging.  Our numbers consisted of Welshot Team Leaders, Welshot Members, Professional Photographers, Models, Make-up artist and Hair stylist.

We took over the "cross" area of the City from 10am until around 2pm generating lots of crowds and interest as we proceeded to take pictures of 5 stunning models.  Several Welshot Members (me included) were given the opportunity to attend the event and as well as take pictures of the models we were being given expert knowledge and guidance from Professional Photographers. 

I was lucky enough to get some one-to-one tuition and guidance from Zoe Richards of Zoe Photography based in Liverpool.  To get an opportunity like this is fantastic and would not be possible without the hard work and professionalism of Welshot.

We also had Eifion WIlliams (Welshot Professional) and Will Cheung FRPS (editor of Advanced Photographer Magazine) on hand to provide their knowledge and expertise.

After entertaining most of the race-goers as they made their way down to the course we packed up and headed for lunch.  Whoever said there is no such thing as a free lunch is a liar.  I got to learn from professionals, take pictures of 5 different models, have lunch and meet a bunch of fantastic people all for free.

We finished off the day with a further shoot in Westminster Park.  This for me was the icing on the cake as everything I had been learning was falling into place and this session is where I took my best pictures.

There was so much to learn other than just taking pictures I didn't want the day to end.  But unfortunately we did have to wrap it up and head home for some post processing.

If you have an interest in Photography then I strongly suggest that you visit the Welshot site to see what they have to offer.  As well as the many benefits of being a member you'll have access to a vast array of knowledge and experience.  You can do it all on-line via the forums or you can attend the evening sessions held once a month at various locations where you can meet the Welshot gang and other members in person.  Then there are the 1-day / 2-day workshops covering specific genres or techniques.

Through the Welshot experience I was able to attend this promotional day for free and I'm sure this will lead to many more opportunities.  So, if you love photography....join us.

1st Model - Sarahann Roberts 
2nd Model - Jennifer Brook

Monday, 1 August 2011

TPI - Assignment 12

The End.....16 Months on and I now have my diploma. (actually finished in May, just late writing this post)

It's been a worthwhile journey as I have learned so much about photography and about what I want to do as a photographer.  The Diploma itself wasn't what I was after it was more about the knowledge and experience I would gain from this process.

When I first started looking at courses there were so many to choose from and some carried academic qualifications officially recognised etc and others didn't.  I looked beyond that and went for a course that had the content that appealed to me.  The Diploma was an added benefit I guess, however, in the real world I'm not sure flashing my Diploma is going to get me any further than were I am today.  The knowledge and experience I have gained not just from the Institute and the course but from my own journey is much more valuable to me.

The final Assignment is an ongoing process with no end date.  I have started on the next part of my photographic journey and even though I have learned many things there is one important lesson that stands out above all of them. 

No matter what happens in the future I will never improve as a photographer unless I keep taking photographs.  Not just any old photographs, I need to focus on my chosen genre and then push myself as hard as I can.  Being in my comfort zone isn't going to get me anywhere nor dropping out of my comfort zone now and then either.  Each challenge I set myself from this point forward has to be out of my comfort zone and to a further extent than the previous one.

I am working on a set of goals for the next 12-24 months.  Once finalised I will post then here and then provide updates.  By doing this in public there is more chance I will actually do it :-)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

TPI - Assignment 11

This is where I had to put everything I had learned into practice and produce a set of images.  The whole process from start to finish.  Everything from the initial concept, visualisation, taking the images, processing and then selecting the best ones for a "no holds barred" review.

Ideally I would have liked to have completed a portfolio of Portraits but I knew it would be time consuming getting subjects lined up.  (I will do this in the near future).   My second choice was Seascapes which was made a lot simpler as I live on the coast.  Also, unlike portraits I could go and get the images whenever I wanted.  The only factors I had to consider where sunrise/sunset times and the tidal charts.

On reflection, I probably spent more time working on the presentation of the images rather than the actual process of taking the images.  I wanted to display my set of images in a consistent way, after all, the images where to be a set and I wanted them to look like that in every possible way.  Having said that I actually ended up with five long exposures and one normal exposure.  I guess that's down to artistic license ! 

Having spent so much time learning all of the science and technology of photography it was a welcome break to simply go out and take pictures.  I'm not saying that I ignored the "maths" but I think a lot of it is now almost second nature and so not getting in the way.  I tried to focus more on aspects such as composition, leading lines, contrast etc.  I'm also less trigger happy now, I used to snap away all over the place and come home with hundreds of images to process.  Now, with the aid of pre-visualisation, scouting for locations (and knowing where the sun is going to be) I pretty much know exactly what I am going to shoot, therefore, far fewer images to process.    

When you are sat in front of your PC post processing hundreds of images it is important to have a good efficient workflow.  My process has developed quite a lot while following this course but I'm still hindered by the 80-20 rule, i.e. rejecting the poor images (80%) can be relatively quick but then deciding which of the 20% you are going to keep can take forever.  Then there is the dilemma of keeping or deleting the rejects.  I have (on several occasions) reviewed previous work and picked out images that were overlooked first time around.  (Tip - regularly look through your previous work, it's great to see how much you have improved).

So, you've completed post processing and gone from 100 images to 10 but you only want to showcase 6 of them.  "You'll be remembered by your weakest image so it is important that they are all top drawer", this is what I have been telling my self constantly as it is the first thing you will hear when researching "how to create a portfolio".  It's great to get into this way of working and I'm quite comfortable now with my workflow and find it easy to discard unwanted images.  However, there is a down side.  When you spend so much time looking at your images you can start to get bored of them.  Sounds strange but its true.  By the time I had selected my final 6 images I was starting to doubt myself and the images and even thought about starting over.   

This is where your confidence needs a little boost and the quickest way to do this is to have someone else look your images.  So, I uploaded a few of them onto flickr and I didn't have to wait long before some positive comments appeared.  Simple, problem solved.  But as with all photographers you'll never capture the perfect image because once you do you want to get straight back out there and get a better one.

I was (without sounding modest) expecting a decent score as I put a lot of effort into the images and also the write up completed for each one.  The 10/10 was very pleasing but again the detailed feedback was much more valuable to me.

The final assignment doesn't require submission but I will be completing it anyway and reporting back on here. 

So that's it, I've completed the Photography Institutes'  "Professional Photography Course".

Thank you for reading and I hope that you have found this useful.


Monday, 21 March 2011

Welshot Imaging - Photographic Academy

I recently became a member of the Welshot Photographic Academy based in the UK.  I was introduced by a work colleague and after attending a couple of  evening workshops I decided to join.

They have an expanding number of locations in the UK, the majority of which are in and around Wales.  I am local to the Chester one so have attended a couple of workshops there.  I'm also not far from the Llandudno one so I may try one of those evenings next.  As well as evening workshops they also run activities covering anything from a 1/2 day street photography session to a 10 day trip to Hong Kong !

Anyone can attend the workshops (small fee) but there are plenty of benefits to joining up.   It's also a great way to meet other people who share the same interest so you can swap experiences, hints & tips etc.  What I do like is the fact that there is nothing competitive at all about this Academy.  It doesn't matter what type of camera you have or how good you are, everyone pitches in and helps each other out. 

If you've tried the old style camera clubs and they didn't meet your expectations/requirements then I suggest you give Welshot a try.

Visit their website for full details....

Thursday, 3 March 2011

TPI - Assignment 10

A lot of research and thinking required for this one.  The more information you gather about running a photography business the more you realise that you'll probably only spend about 10% of the time behind the camera.

The marketplace is saturated with photographers all fighting for business.  You've always got to stay one step ahead of the competition othewise you'll crash and burn.

So how do you make yourself stand out from the rest ?  Just being a better photographer doesnt make you a successfull business.  Marketing and product placement are key; if the right potential customers don't see your flyers/adverts etc in the right place at the right time then they are not going to use you.

Now i'd be happy to supplement my income by selling a few pictures here and there, it would certainly help pay for the next lens.  So, if that were to happen and then develop into something more substantial it would still take an enormous amount of paid photo jobs to take me away from the 9 ot 5.  I would need to be doing a couple of wedding a week and that is certainly not for the faint hearted.

There is also the enjoyment factor to consider.  You take certain pictures because you like taking them.  If you were doing this for a living then you would be taking certain types of pictures because you had to.  Then your hobby is no longer your hobby and your enjoyment is replaced with satisfying the customer and doing what you are told.

Still, if I could take pictures all day and make enough money to survive I wouldn't hesitate to do so.  You just never know whats around the corner......

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

TPI - Assignment Results

These are my scores for each Assignment;

1)      8/10
2)      9/10
3)      10/10
4)      10/10
5)      9/10
6)      9/10
7)      9/10
8)      10/10
9)      9/10
10)    9/10
11)    10/10
12) progress

Monday, 7 February 2011

Time for a change

After 4 years of loyal service I have decided to upgrade from my Canon 400D.  I don't want to sound like a workman blaming his tools but I have reached the stage were I need something new, something more up to date, something bigger, better, etc, etc.
After all, 4 years is a very long lifetime for a piece of technology.  In fact, as with all gadgets I remember purchasing my 400D and then seeing the adverts for the 450D within days of placing the order.

Well the same thing has happened again.  My new 60D arrived the other day and in typical fashion the 600D was announced...probably just as I pressed the "Purchase" button ! 

Not that it bothered me as I had spent a good few months reading reviews and taking time to make sure I was happy with my upgrade decision.  In fact, "happy" is an understatement.  Although I've only had the 60D for a few days and not had chance to get out and shoot with it, from what I have seen so far it is fantastic.

There are so many features I was lacking on the 400D and those that were there have been enhanced significantly.  The 3 big selling points for me where;

    1)  Wireless Flash control
    2)  The LCD screen
    3)  ISO performance

I'm already finding more features to add to the list and no doubt once I manage to get out and about with the camera I will find even more. 

HD Video - I didn't put this on my list of selling points because.....well, it wasn't !   not for me anyway.    So this is where I contradict myself.  I'm an amateur photographer and as such don't really take much video footage (even though I own a camcorder).  I'm much more comfortable taking stills rather than video.  That said, I do spend a lot of time watching HD video footage taken by other people, particularly of MTB and BMX riders.  I have been amazed by the overall quality of the movies that are out there and certainly prefer to watch than to create.   

So, to the contradiction.....having played with the HD functionality I can safely say that I am hooked.  I've shot about 2 minutes of footage around the house and I love it already.

When I started looking at replacement cameras I was a bit put off by the fact that I would be paying for functionality I didn't want/need.  But given that all the models in the running had HD functionality I resigned myself to that fact.  Now I am even more pleased with my decision.

It's also worth mentioning that you should shop around for the best deals.  If you are buying online then make sure you read reviews about the websites/companies.  You may find some fantastic deals but you need to be confident that you are giving your money to a reputable business.  I found a 60D for £100 less than anywhere else....bargain.  Not so, the write-ups on the company where terrible.

Trade-in......purchasing on the High Street will give you the opportunity to trade-in your old camera.  However, I opted for ebay.  While researching replacement models I was also checking out ebay to see how much I could potentially get for my 400D.  This was a key factor in the decision making as it helped bring the cost down.  At the time of writing this my 400D has 21 watchers and just under 2 days left to go.  There is one bid but the reserve hasn't been met yet.  I'm confident I will get a decent price as I have seen over 20 of them sell for a decent price over the past couple of weeks.

Now, time to go and take some pictures...........

Monday, 10 January 2011

TPI - Assignment 9

Now this was a tough one !  This assignment was packed with technical jargon, best practices, workflows, tutorials you name it.  I've lost count of the amount of times I read through the notes, not to mention the re-visits to specific sections as I was completing the assignment.

One thing this course has taught me is that "no matter how much you think you know about something - you are way off the mark and know absolutely nothing" !  (well you know what I mean)

Every time I come across another topic, whether its sharpening or bit depth,  in reality these subjects are huge in their own right.  In fact, there are books written just about sharpening and you could spend hours researching the pro's and con's of 8 or 16 bit depth.  Did you know that different applications use different sharpening algorithms to calculate which pixels should be altered and by how much ?

The images you spend so much time working on are going to end up somewhere.  Whether it's the digital cupboard, an on-line sharing site or as a print above your fireplace the medium used to display your image is a key factor.  All of the processing techniques you can apply in photoshop are either going to make or kill your image.  You need to know where the image is intended for before you start manipulating it.  An image displayed as a 6"x4" in a photo frame on your desk at work will need different processing to the image that is going to be printed as an A1 poster.   In fact, not only the size of the reproduction but the distance it will be viewed from will be a factor to consider.

When you are processing images it is important to know from the outset where the image is going to end up.  You then need to create an efficient workflow so that you don't spend all night processing images.  For example, if you have a bunch of photos from a shoot and you apply some global changes in Camera Raw, chances are those edits will work across most of the pictures taken in that shoot.  So, apply the changes to a whole batch of images and save yourself hours.

You can always make it even more interesting by printing your own images.  So, why is that such an issue ?   Well the colour scheme used to display an image on your screen is different to the one used to print it on your printer.   There are tools you can use to test your printer to find out how good it is at reproducing your images so that they look like the one on the screen.  Again, this is another topic filling books in its own right.  That said, it is another fascinating aspect to photography.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

TPI - Assignment 8

A very important assignment and although it didn't actually require any pictures it was an interesting process to go through.  Deciding what type of equipment you require to support your hobby as a potential business venture and how to justify the expense is not easy.  There are so many things to consider, purchase or lease etc, etc.

Once you start getting into the detail it's pretty clear to see that we're not dealing with Photography in general terms, the subject itself is too vast.  Once you start looking at the various types of photography work out there each one has its own specific requirements.  You can't generalise and just pick a body, a few lenses and some lights.  You need to seriously consider a particular field that interests you and then get an idea of the type of equipment specific to that area.