Friday 13th (just 2 places remaining) and 20th July 2012
This summer, I shall, once again, be doing a Photographing Nature workshop at Northward Hill RSPB, situated on the Isle of Grain in North Kent. As last year, a percentage shall be going to the MSEP (Medway and Swale Estuary Partnership). I have supported this organisation for a number of years now by doing photo walks during the Kent Coastal Week and supplying images for their twice yearly publication, The Mudlark. The principle behind them is to raise awareness to the importance of this region and “to address issues affecting economic, environmental and social well being of the estuary.”
The day will be a mix of classroom presentations and in-the-field photography where I will be going through such things as those camera settings that I regularly use as a professional photographer as well as covering metering modes, exposure, iso, composition and reading the histogram. With the aid of digital presentations, I will illustrate how to get close-ups of insects and flowers as well as the landscape. I will also illustrate how to get closer to birds and mammals through using hides and stalking. Post-processing techniques will also be touched upon.
As we are situated on a fabulous nature reserve we shall, of course, be putting many of those techniques discussed into practise though, it has to be stressed, photography of birds and mammals will not be possible as they are both too shy and elusive! However, there will be plenty of butterflies, dragonflies and flowers to aim our lenses at throughout the day.
Numbers will be limited to just 6 and are on a first come first served basis. Welcome tea and coffee will be provided.
If you would like to attend, please get in touch, either by phone, on 07939 117570 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
My 10th article for Outdoor Photography magazine can now be seen in the March issue. You can see previous articles on my website or by clicking here. A quick look at them I see my first was back in 2001! Gosh, I do look young in that mugshot!
The recent article is on Dungeness or, to be more precise, the abandoned fishing boats that can be found on it’s massive shingle beach. Since my first visit, just under a year ago, I have been there many times, largely as a result of the workshops which I hold there every month.
If you have ever thought about visiting this extraordinary site then, perhaps, you might like to consider attending such a workshop. Group sizes are small and we round things up with me illustrating how to paint-with-light. Quite an experience on a pitch-black beach, I can tell you
Once again I found myself in the Peak District ready to give a landscape photography workshop. This was my fifth in the last 18 months concentrating primarily on 3 Edges. Stanage, Curbar and Baslow. Although, on previous occasions, I had explored much of the Dark Peak (North) area, there was still a number of places I wanted to visit, not least as I am planning on holding a two day workshop in the autumn of 2012.
I arrived at the campsite late in the afternoon, 2 days before the workshop. It was raining. That incessant, drizzle where you can see no end in sight. I got out of my car and surveyed the site looking for a suitable place to pitch my tent. The site was on a slope so clearly the lower fields were out of the question since these would become progressively waterlogged and, of course, somewhere flat! Most importantly of all was not to be too near to other tents but there was no fear of this as on the whole site there could have been only around half a dozen. I found where I wanted to pitch, got back inside the car and again, waited. It wasn’t going to stop so, with a sigh, I got on with it. There is no fun putting up a tent in the rain especially when you have one where the inner has to go up first! Who, in their right minds, designs a tent where you put up the inside first?!
I don’t camp often, perhaps only a few times a year (mainly in the early spring and autumn, when campsite’s are most quiet and the countryside is at its most photogenic) and, although it may seem like a cold, inconvenient way to spend 6 days, I am always glad I did. You not only save yourself a fair bit of money but you can eat as and when you please and not endure finding somewhere to eat after you’ve had a long day shooting. Instead, I can return to my tent, prepare dinner and put on the radio or read a book. The best part, if you have chosen your campsite well, is that you can just lay there and listen to nature. I always choose those sites with the most basic of amenities and far from shops etc. This invariably stops families with children, barking dogs and teenagers and attracts hardened hill walkers with a respect for their fellow campers. I may sound like an old misery but really, who wants to spend the night in the tent in earshot of chattering families or hoots of laughter at 2 in the morning! Instead, I had a pair of vocal tawnies and pheasant in the adjacent woodland.
On my first morning, I headed for Curbar Edge in the hope of shooting a misty sunrise. I arrived at dawn and spotted a stag and hind just 50m away. It was still too dark to take pictures but wonderful to see, all the same. The sun did appear, at intervals, and the mist/fog cleared and thickened for the next hour or so.
I scouted a couple of other locations and that evening walked up to Higger Tor. It was a relatively clear evening and shot until dusk. I also bumped into a couple of other photographers and chatted about the kind of things photographers talk about, cameras and the weather!
The following day’s workshop went very well with, unfortunately, periods of more cloud than sun! As we met, we were greeted with the sight of a lenticular cloud overhead. It was a great day and the group were really good fun.
The morning after, I returned to Higger Tor in the hope of a decent sunrise but the fog put pay to any landscape work. Places such as this, in this kind of weather, take on an otherworldly character and as I wandered amongst the heather and boulders, I took this image of a carrion crow.
The fog didn’t look as though it was going to budge so waterfall and woodland photography it was going to be! I drove to the north east of the Dark Peak region where, earlier in the year, I stumbled upon an incredibly photogenic area where, it seemed, not too many others were aware of and this is where I stayed for the next 3 hours. I was looking for something different other than the usual waterfall shots so I turned my attention to this pool which had “captured” fallen leaves that slowly swirled within. It was barely visible to the eye but with the aid of an ND filter and resulting shutter speed of 8 seconds, the motion was exaggerated. With images such as this, it really is a matter of trial and error to get the desired effect. How time flies when you are immersed in photography as I spent close to an hour and half shooting these three compositions.
I rarely change the WB, preferring to do this in the post-processing stage but, on this occasion, I tweaked the setting in cloudy to accurately replicate the colour of this dark, peat-stained water.
Wanting to reach another site some distance away, in time for sunset, I slowly walked back to the car and noticed the play of light on the rocks and water produced by the late afternoon sunlight on a distant hill side.
I then drove to Curbar edge and enjoyed an hour of glorious red light.
Once the sun had set, I laid on a soft patch of heather, with not a soul to be seen, and took in the silence. The sound punctuated, only, by a Train of Jackdaws flying overhead.
The following day was forecast as being cloudy so once again, into the woods I headed. This time it was to be Padley Gorge. The colours of the beech were amazing and I spent an enjoyable few hours shooting foliage and waterfalls.
On my final morning, with clear skies forecast, I visited Mam Tor which has wonderful views across the Hope Valley. I arrived in the dark, stars overhead and walked to the summit full of optimism. But, as dawn broke, I breathed a heavy sigh as the landscape was clothed in heavy fog. I stayed an hour in the hope it would clear but alas, it never did completely.
I headed back to the car and began the drive to the campsite to pack up when I noticed this view. I was drawn to it by the graphic lines of the stone walls and subtle shades of autumn colour. A nice end to a thoroughly enjoyable and productive trip.
I will be leading a 2 day workshop in Autumn next year to the Dark Peak region, taking in some of the places mentioned here. If you would like to attend, please register your interest by contacting me at email@example.com or tel: 07939 117570. Numbers will be limited to just 6 participants.
I have just added 3 new workshops which can be viewed here on the workshops page on my website. They have only been up a short while and already places are being filled so if you’re interested, please get in touch soon. Below is an overview of those added.
Bluebell Photography Walk
Sunday May 1st – 10.00 to 13.00 hrs.
(Group size – 6. 4 places remaining)
To be held at Hucking Estate, a beautiful woodland near Maidstone. Ideal for those wishing to learn how to photograph plants, insects and woodland scenes. Suitable for beginners as well as the more experienced. £30
Kent’s Lady Orchids
Saturday May 14th – 14.00 to 18.00 hrs.
The location for this orchid photography workshop is a nature reserve near Garlinge Green, south of Canterbury. I’ll be covering such things as composition, lens selection, exposure and flash. Choice of time has been chosen to avoid the mid-day sun and benefit from the low, late afternoon sunlight. £45
Saturday August 20th and Sunday 21st – 04.30 to 07.30 hrs.
(Group size-3. 2 places remaining on each day)
Experience the vibrant colours of flowering heath at Kent’s largest heathland, Hothfield Heathlands, near Ashford, at sunrise. Suitable for those of all levels and as the group size is only 3, there’ll be no bustling for the best positions! This really is a time when the most atmospheric pictures are created where an early rise is well rewarded. I will go through my thought process when seeking a composition and the decisions I make when choosing the right lens along with using filters, obtaining the correct exposure and assessing the camera’s histogram. Dew laden cobwebs and dragonflies are other possible subjects £35
Wednesday May 4th – 09.00 to 18.00 hrs.
(Group size-2. 1 place remaining)
A full day of photography in mid and north Kent at various favourite locations hand-picked by myself. This is a great time to experience Kent’s ancient woodlands and Downs and the flowers it harbours. The group size has been kept to just 2 so we can all travel in my car and give you pretty much one-to-one tuition. The price also includes a pub lunch at a an award-winning pub run by a personal friend of mine. £125
As with all my workshops, the price includes unlimited correspondence before and after the day and email review of your images.
A quick recce of a few favourite nature reserves, in preparation for next weeks Kent’s Wildflowers workshop, gave me the opportunity to get a few shots of some of the flowers that are around at the moment. I don’t like to take pictures myself when leading workshops since the emphasis should always be on tuition rather than my own photography, but occasionally I may sneak a picture off, especially if the subject is too hard to resit!
The 300mm f.2.8 really comes into it’s own in situations like these. A shorter lens would have resulted in sky appearing in the top of the frame. Shot almost wide open also throws the background out of focus and really makes the flowers stand out. Their other name is the Cuckoo flower as they tend to be in bloom approximately the same time as the arrival of the cuckoo. I haven’t heard any yet and really hope it’s not another ‘quiet’ year, as was the case last year.
About Robert Canis
Robert Canis is a professional photographer specialising in the natural world.
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