Norfolk Photography Workshop Report
Weekend/Residential workshops are always challenging for me. I love what I do and feel honoured to have clients who support me in running my business and sharing great locations and trying to create an environment where they can express freely, have input and tuition on-hand when needed and also enjoy the company of like-minded people who just appreciate being in beautiful places despite whatever light/weather conditions they are presented with.
Last weekend in Norfolk was no exception. The weather wasn’t too bad and despite bad forecasts, there were not too many disruptions to the schedule and just the occasional downpour that interrupted things but also created moody skies and at times lovely light. It’s essential to have an open-mind, flexible approach and sense of humour when you attend a photography workshop. Fortunately, my group in Norfolk had all three in spades so despite my usual reputation of being Mr Grumpy and sarcastic they quickly understood that my grumpiness was nothing more than trying to ensure everything was the best it could be and my ability to quickly adapt when external factors interfered. The feedback comments below hopefully reflect this.
PS I don’t mind the tag of Grumpy as long as clients get the experience and enjoyment they expect and I provide a well-organised workshop with multiple options to shoot everyone’s needs.
All that aside, the group had a great weekend of photography, great restaurants and food throughout and good company with plenty of humour throughout. Thanks to James and Martin for informing me of What3Words which provides three words as location reference within a 3-meter square so is far more accurate than a postcode for navigation. Example my house is atomic.decreased.hello so using the what3words app you could navigate to my house using google maps with those three words. Might be something that catches on would certainly make exact photo location spots easier to navigate too.
I am still working on an App that isn’t actually an App yet so to speak but may end up being a subscription service at some point. Take a look at the BETA version but bear in mind it’s work in progress still so you will find some formatting issues still. https://www.alanranger.com/edge-of-vision
Photo Tips - will provide an electronic flipbook of my pocket photography guides
Location Maps - will provide specific photo locations split by regions with example photos and the ability to navigate between points using Google Maps
Newspump - will provide a photography feed of selected websites that I think clients will be interested in
Forecasts - will provide tide, wind, rain, fog/mist, temperature and all things important to outdoor photographers
The other blocks are more about convenient access to existing listings/services but I intend to expand the range to cover more things that are useful when scouting/planning/shooting at locations.
As for the weekend, we managed to visit approx. twelve locations over the three days there and cover everything from shorelines, estuaries, harbours, groynes, boats, mudflats, jetties, flower fields, heathland, woodland, windmills, and beach huts. So something for all tastes and opportunities to experiment, learn and get right and wrong :)
As always I am grateful for having great clients and the opportunity to share, teach and enjoy the landscape. I have scheduled another Norfolk Workshop for the same time next year. So take a look and get yourself booked for this great location.
Remember the first two places booked get £50 off on any residential photography workshop.
As for some images, here are some highlights from me with some explanations in my thinking. If you want to see all the images taken they are available farther down this post.
We met in Kings Lynn for a pre-workshop breakfast and briefing. Fortuitously on arrival, we noticed a field opposite our stop full of gladiolus flowers so following the briefing we made our first unscheduled stop to take advantage of this unexpected find.
Getting the camera at the right height is essential for these type of situations (poppies, lavender, bluebells etc) too low and you don’t get the receding lines/vanishing point. These were all shot on the 24-70mm at between 50-70mm to create enough wide perspective but also zoom past the immediate foreground scrub. A polariser was used but no other filters and all shot at aperture F11 to give enough depth of field for the main part of each image and combat the wind with a fast enough shutter speed without compromising quality with ISO’s above 800.
From flower fields to heathland we moved onto Roydand Common where we had hoped to see the odd cow or pony grazing but instead we had heather that was definitely past it’s best but still had enough colour in it to create some interesting shots (with a little help of Lightroom to bring out the textures, tones and colours)
The shot of the single tree was taken on a tilt-shift lens (it a lens I don’t utilise enough) which is the best way to maximise depth of field from front to back of a scene by moving the focal plane. See this YouTube explanation if you are interested in understanding more.
Following Roydon we went to Snettisham to photography the “elusive jetty”. It’s been dubbed elusive because many a photographer has written about how hard it is to find. The jetty can be shot at any time really but the main choices are with an incoming tide to capture waves running around the structure or on low tide so the tidal pools and mudflats can be photographed. We arrived at low tide so faced enormous expanses of mudflats and tidal pools creating interesting shapes and contrast.
Onto Thornham Harbour, a lovely spot and certainly worth trying to time with sunrise/sunset and tides. Our late afternoon arrival time was a few hours before high tide so probably not ideal and of course, the late afternoon also means other visitors/tourists parking cars in direct sight of your intended subject. However, with some patience and maybe a little obvious circling the wagons action from clients the “said” offending vehicle eventually moved off and gave us a less restrictive angle to shoot the old cold barn and derelict boat marooned on the bankside.
There were other areas of interest away from the harbour with interesting relics of wooden posts but the rain stopped play briefly so we only managed a short hand-held set of grab shots from that side of the harbour/estuary before moving onto Morston Quay.
Morston Quay is a favourite spot for me, it’s an estuary full of boats of various sizes and designs and there is always something to photograph in the busy harbour area where the run seal trips from. At times it can be hard to separate one boat from another in composition and that’s what we were faced with on arrival as the tide started to come in and so the boats were returning from their trips out. However, the light was fading quickly and post torrential downpour we were treated to some lovely golden tones on the boats and muddy banks around the quayside.
An early start for sunrise at Blakeney Harbour to shoot boats, estuary and nature reserve. The estuary was a struggle as there were so many boats moored up it was difficult to make a clean composition without colliding, overlapping and distracting elements in the frame. The walk along the embankment on the nature reserve proved more fruitful but the intended derelict boat I have photographed for several years was sadly 1 meter under the high tide. However, we did manage to capture some lovely morning light and had a laugh about a passer-by who misheard our client saying Harriet (the name of another client) for Marsh Harrier. Doesn’t sound funny when you write it down but his plummy loud accent of “HARRIER! MARSH HARRIER - WHERE?” was a moment to be remembered! Harriet became know as Marsh Harriet for the remainder of the weekend and James certainly dined out on the moment along with his impersonation of an Orca Whale and tales of squirrel and cow drownings :) (not literally by the way)
It never ceases to amaze me that so many passers-by assume the only reason for having a camera is to photography a bird and when you respond to them to say, no its the landscape etc they seem disappointed!
Following breakfast, we headed speedily off to Overstrand to try and get there in time for the tide lapping around the infamous zig-zag groynes/sea defences there. The groynes are a great subject for longer exposures and learning how to use filters. An elevated position gives a great perspective and playing with various shutter speeds opens up endless possible ways to photograph these interesting structures.
Wells Next Sea
From Overstrand, we went to Wells Next Sea. It’s a very popular spot, made famous by the very expensive and unusual beach huts on stilts. I have to confess it’s not my favourite spot in Norfolk, the hoards of people on the beach, dogs (despite it being stated as dog-free) and general commercialisation of the area makes me feel it’s always going to be difficult to get into a creative zone in a solitary environment. Nevertheless, there are good opportunities there if you can ignore the numerous, and obvious, distractions. Having photographed the beach huts there on previous visits I took the opportunity to focus more on closer up images of decaying parts of structures on the beach. I went back to my favourite beach hut and photographed the rusty hinges and then as I returned to look for clients found one participant having a sneaky nap next to a groyne. So quickly photographing the rusty bolts on the groyne structure I suggested there was a great photo available from his laying down napping position that he might try.
Personally speaking, it turned out to be the shot I was most excited/happy about from the whole weekend. I loved the contrast of sunlight on the “green lamp shade” against the stormy cloudy sky that was soon to provide a torrential downpour and the simplicity of the composition with how the light fell on the foreground sand but receded into shadow in the distance. Thanks, James, I wouldn’t have seen that shot had you not napped!
Following Wells Next Sea and a torrential downpour, we had to reschedule locations and headed to Brancaster Harbour. Mid-afternoon and a few hours before high tide meant the harbour was basically mud and marooned boats but we were aware we were on the edge of storms and imminent torrential rain so wanted to make the most of any opportunity to get the cameras out.
Brancaster harbour has plenty of potentials and certainly worth a visit, especially if you can time it with sunrise or sunset and tide times. You should look past the obvious immediate areas around the car park where there are multiple tidal pools and estuary inlets with boats, quayside structures and ancillary props like grasses and lobster pots. Beyond those compositions are some more hidden treasures that you will hopefully have the time to create shots without the imminent storms that we faced which meant grabbing shots.
We followed Brancaster with a journey back along the coast and drive by windmill shoot in the rain and then back to Blakeney Harbour
We went to West Runton photograph the sea defences and groynes. You need to be there for high tide or shortly after to capture the reflections on wet sands or structures depending on your preferences.
Despite a bad weather forecast, the morning was the sunniest and warmest of the whole weekend and not a drop of rain to interrupt shooting. I struggled with a composition of one tide worn groyne so feel i need to revisit to do it more justice given its characteristics. That’s the challenge with outdoor photography and visiting location for the first time; sometimes you need more familiarity with the subject to make the best from it photographically.
Following West Runton the group decided, collectively, that due to weather forecasts and also a change of environment we would visit the Felbrigg Estate. The estate itself wasn’t the focus but the woodlands and deer park around it should have provided some opportunities.
We ended up parking roadside and wandering into some woodlands that were absolutely packed with mushroom/fungi colonies everywhere.
After some low level (laying on the ground shots) we came across some fungal on elevated branches so with cameras mounted on tripods facing 180 degrees vertically upwards we spend some time trying to manoeuvre everything to capture the back-lit fungal using a zoom lens in very difficult positions. The resulting images are not perfect by any means but given they were shot at 200mm with the camera/lens pointing directly up at 180 degrees they didn’t turn out too shabby.
Overall, a cracking weekend with loads of variety of environments. a great client group, good food, good locations, good weather (in the main) and some decent shots available. I am grateful for the clients who attended and look forward to returning next year.