Bluebell Workshops Report
I feel very blessed to have access to a private woodlands that is managed and therefore unspoilt by too much natural debris and unnatural footfall by the public. The latter point is an increasing problem that i referred to in my previous post on top tips to photograph bluebells. Interestingly, Radio 4 Gardeners Question Time (GQT), this week also had a feature on how our native species of english bluebell is being eroded by the public walking on the bluebells and the invasion of spanish bluebells too.
Should we share location details?
Are we as photographers encouraging the destruction of the species?
Social media has also been swamped with tens of thousands bluebell photos over the last couple of weeks, and also some fiery debates on whether it’s the right thing to do to share the woodland locations publicly, because it only encourages more and more people to visit those woodlands and cause even more damage or have some people have said “more bluebell photos - why?”
It’s a difficult one for me because I do think everyone and anyone should have the right to see and enjoy the nation’s favourite spring flower but only if they show respect and responsibility for not walking on or amongst them. Sadly, there are too many cases and examples where people, and i’m sure photographers too, don’t take that care and the pursuit of getting the perfect picture overrides everything else to the detriment of the flower and micro environment underneath them.
It seems that many of our great landscape/outdoor locations are becoming increasingly damaged due to photographers turning up in numbers on a repeated weekly basis so the ground and surrounding environment does not have any time to repair and heal itself. That’s aside from the debate about being original and finding something different to photograph.
As someone who earns a living from taking clients to landscape locations I know I am partially responsible for adding to the problem. All I can do, right now, is advise clients on my code of ethics when it comes to these locations, and when possible keep the exact location details secret. Secret, not because I don’t want others to get photos or I think they may get something better than me (I’m sure they would ) but I don’t want to encourage more and more people to go to the same places and cause more damage than is already evident.
Does this mean I will stop running workshops at Chesterton Windmill, Lake District, Northumbria and all the other iconic outdoor locations, certainly not! But, I will try and be even more mindful about giving away exact location details, and stripping out the GPS coordinates from the photo metadata to make it harder for those who visit my website just to get location details and ideas of where to get their next “masterpiece” from.
Let’s have a two-way conversation
If you have an opinion on this or want to share your thoughts, please do comment on this blog post in the comments section at the bottom of the blog post. I’d like to see more direct engagement through the comments box on my blogs. It not only encourages me to take the time and effort to write these posts but I think having participation from readers and clients is healthy and something we can all learn from. PS I was disappointed that so many people read and even commented verbally to me that my tips for photographing bluebells was a really good post but not a single comment posted on the blog itself! So come on folks share your views, engage and lets make blog posts more than just me having a one to one conversation with you.
Should the photography workshop leader take their own photos?
As for my bluebell photography workshops this year. Firstly numbers attending were broadly the same as last year, just a handful of attendees less but mainly due to me optimising the schedule to ensure that each workshop was viable and had maximum participation. Therefore I was delighted to have run five different sessions over three days with all but one of those full. Consequently I didn’t take my camera out at all for four of those as felt my duty and responsibility was to be on-hand to support my clients 100% of the time.
Whether the workshop leader takes their camera and makes photos on a workshop is another debate that seems to be divided into black and white opinions. My stance has always been, it depends on the numbers taking part, experience and level of those attending and also the duration time of the workshop.
The argument seems to be based around two conflicting views:
The workshop leader can better support and demonstrate vision and technique by also creating images that they can then share with the attendees as a way of teaching
The workshop leader should be there 100% for clients and not there to build their own portfolio of images.
My view is that both statements are true and i think it’s simply a question of balance, time and responsibility. Responsibility by the client to ask for help when needed and by the tutor to understand the needs of their clients and make themself available, be proactive in engaging and then creating a balance of input and time to allow clients to grow and problem solve the shots themselves.
If I run a workshop that is 2.5 hrs or 4 hrs then to be honest, unless that workshop only has two or three attendees I know full well that I can’t possibly provide the input needed and wanted in such a short duration, if it’s a one day or longer duration then the dynamics change because clients settle into a rhythm after half a day and start to find a groove and method based on what you have taught and suggested initially. How many times do you need Alan to remind you to check your exposure, Dof and sharpness or examine your frame for compositional improvements or help in recognising that you have intruders and/or a confused intention/composition.
To suggest that a workshop leader should input and modify every photo , takes away the photographers right and interpretation and turns it into exercise of just mimincing or creating images based on the leaders view. That’s not right and that’s not what i want to do. Teaching photography, for me, is about, creating the space and ideas, the techniques and methods for any individual to maximise and create their own interpretations of subjects.
There is no gold standard definition of right or nice but we can evaluate and judge based on our own criteria and interpretation of what’s right and nice.
I had a number of interesting discussions with clients over the last 10 days about their experiences on other workshops and, if and, how the tutor made themself available and approachable to support them. There seemed to be a view that there are many who do not provide that support and time and a minority that do, with varying degrees of, if you asked yes, but you were not prompted to collaborate so the onus was on you. Again, my view is about that balance and judgement of the workshop leader to provide input when they think it’s needed but not to simply give the participant a formulae or easy way to to just replicate the tutors interpretation. If the individual can’t find and develop a composition on their own then the role of the workshop leader is to help expand the idea and help them problem solve the issues not to ask them to copy their camera settings and way of interpreting and framing subjects.
Photos from clients from this years photography bluebell workshops
(Click on any photo to see it full screen size)
I am proud to say that like most of my landscape photography workshops my clients were from all walks of life and from every level of complete beginners and more experienced and everything in between. For some, this was their first organised photography workshop, for others they had attended one of my own or someone else’s workshop, so there was a really healthy mix of experience and approaches. Looking through the images that have been sent to me (not everyone has had the time to send me images for the deadline of this post) I hope you will agree that the variety is interesting and interpretations of how to photography bluebells more inspiring, even if at times, i personally feel they need a bit more or less of x or y.
Client Feedback, so far
And a handful from me, from one afternoon
I would really welcome your comments, questions, debates or any engagement on this post, so please feel more than welcome to post in the comments box below. Many thanks