Peak District Heathers Photography Workshop Report

Peak District Heathers Photography Workshop Report
Alan Ranger Photography(44)

I always find short workshop durations are challenging but often surprisingly rewarding too. It may take as long, or longer, to get to and from a place, than the amount of time you have to shoot on location. However, outdoor photography is all about the light and timing and being able to respond in those moments.

Timing is everything

Last night’s workshop in the Peak District to shoot the heathers was no exception. On arrival, we were bathed in harsh bright sunlight and evaporating cloud cover so our first hour on location was invested in getting connected to our surroundings, sketching out compositions that didn’t work because of the harsh light and just finding some balance wherever we could find it.

This may sound like an excuse for just saying, should have started the workshop an hour later, but it’s not. The reality and experience of running countless photography workshops with all levels of experience have informed me that clients need a period of warm-up time on location to find that creative zone and space for exploration and experimentation.

Thrown in at the deep end in the “golden hour” only, would result in lack of connection to the environment, smash and grab shots under pressure and fear that you might be missing something better elsewhere and a quick and shallow interpretation of your subject. This one reason why I try to limit workshops locations to three or so on a 1-day shoot, barring sunrise/sunset and just one when half-day or less. We all need a good 30-40 mins in a new place to find that zone of creative thinking.

Bag the shot

So, with a short trek up the side of the steep hill, we meandered amongst the heather paths taking in expanding views and photographic sketches. By 8 pm, the light started to soften, and we were finally blessed with a lovely range of shadows and highlights. For me, this is always the most exciting part of a workshop. Everyone knows the light is just right (or at least better than it has been before this point) yet we also know that the light will not last long. It becomes frantic and inspiring but also pressured as there is a sense of “I must make use of the light now and bag the shot!”

Of course, the reality is most don’t ever feel they have bagged a shot; they tell themselves that the shot is as good as it can get it in camera and quickly move on to the next potential trophy shot. The alternative approach is to be patient, persistent and almost bloody-minded. Ask yourself countless times if you can do anything else to improve the shot, either technically or creatively. Be prepared to camp on the spot and watch the light change, or dynamics of the composition vary with adjustments in your framing.

Finding your vision

You probably won’t get a unique composition on the first visit of any new location. That’s ok, nothing wrong with anyone imitating shots they have seen before or unconsciously applying a layout and design that seems to make sense based on some rules/guidelines of composition. (though please spare me the reason for taking a shot is just a leading line :) on a second or more visit you have probably taken those familiar views, and this allows you the freedom to improve on those and/or find your own compositions and frames from familiar locations. This is the period of innovation,  and a return to being ignorant of everything you have paid a handsome sum to learn your craft.

Child’s Play

The freedom to explore ideas and how things fit together or don’t is “child’s play” and hopefully something, in time, you can return to once you feel you have exhausted the taught behaviour of a modern-day photographer.

As for some images, here is a selection from me. Click on image to view full screen/aspect ratio