December 2019

Colours, CAFE, Cape Town & Cornish


This month I’m reflecting back on two great photographic opportunities I had during November and on one or two things I learned along the way.

Red and yellow
Fallen leaves arranged on the carpet of red

Firstly, an excellent workshop, organised by the RPS and led by Mark Banks, entitled ‘Autumn Colours’ took place at Thorp Perrow Arboretum in early November. I was pleased to have a place on this and came away with some excellent shots and tips (one of the main tips we’ll come onto in the next bit).

Tree trunk - Intentional Camera Movement
Like a snake in the woods – ICM

Mark gave us four themes to explore during the day, these were ‘Rain’, ‘Red’, ‘Movement’ and ‘Classic Autumn Woodland’. Hopefully I managed to achieve all four. Many images are in my Yorkshire Gallery and some are in the ICM gallery. Mark showed a great deal of patience (especially with me) and explained things easily and simply and took the time to work with all the participants to help them get the best out of the day. The first thing I learned was that you don’t need to travel far to get beautiful locations and of course beautiful images. Thorp Perrow is only 10 minutes drive from where I live, some folk had travelled from Cheshire and the Peak District to attend. I was the only one to late to arrive!


Close up in red
Close up in red – a large Aperture like F2.8 gives a shallow depth of field

So the second thing I learned on the workshop was that Thorp Perrow has a CAFE where we had a very nice lunch. Anne and I are going to join as annual members shortly. They do great scones and the bacon butties are to die for….. erm…. that’s not what Mark exactly meant by CAFE. I’ll explain. and this is so basic, but
C – A – F – E really means:
C – Compose
A – Aperture
F – Focus point
E – Expose

So simple I can’t believe I’ve never stopped and used that principle previously and before taking a single shot. I guess I’m always a grab the shot and move on sort of a person. But anyone taking a photo could easily apply this principle before pressing the shutter or tapping their smartphone screen.

COMPOSURE: Does the composition of the photograph look OK through the viewfinder, on the LCD or the screen of the phone? Do you need to move position to get a better angle? Is there something encroaching into the image?
APERTURE: What aperture should I use? For a landscape shot I’d probably be looking for something around F11/F13, this will give me, in general, a shot that is sharp throughout and these apertures tend to be at the sweet spot of the lens. Very large apertures (F1.2/F2.8 etc) give shallow depth of field, very small apertures (F19/F22) give greater depth of field but image quality can be compromised at both ends by optical distortion etc. So I always try for the middle ground.
FOCUS: The point at which I would set the focus of the shot. In landscape, possibly other genres, people seem to recommend focussing about 1/3rd of the way into the scene. This combined with an aperture of say F13 should mean the image is sharp from back to front. Focusing at the front of an image using a large aperture would throw the rear of the photo out of focus. This can be very effective in images to highlight something in the foreground against a ‘blurred’ background for instance.
EXPOSE: The final part of taking any image is the exposure, pressing the button. Of course there are many factors that can affect he exposure, too many to go into here, but in the main most modern cameras / phones will almost get it right (thats what I hope, but I still need to do work in Lightroom when I get home). Again looking on live view on a camera will give a clue to whether the image exposure needs adjusting before pressing the shutter.

Basically, now I will apply these basic principals before taking any shot and hopefully I’ll see some improvement in my photos going forward.

Cape Town

During November Anne and I were fortunate enough to have a trip to Cape Town. From my point of view this wasn’t approached as a photographic holiday, it was to take the opportunity to catch up with a friend, Trevor Thurlow, who is a Circumnavigator in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. Leg 3 finished in Cape Town and the dates coincided with when Anne and I thought we’d fly off to the Canaries for some winter warmth, so change of plan on destination there then.

Colourful Street Market
Street Market in Greenmarket Square Cape Town

South Africa certainly looks like a beautiful country, but sadly there are still many issues that need addressing (I guess throughout the whole of Africa and not just South Africa). There is still a great divide between those who have (both black and white) and those who have not. One shanty town still holds 1.5 million people. We found nearly everyone we met was very friendly, very helpful, and keen to make an impression. Of course there were those people who were less so and although we didn’t feel unsafe were less than comfortable when approached by certain people. Nevertheless it was a great opportunity to see a part of the world which we’d never considered visiting before. Certainly the wine tastes great and I have fallen in love with Pinotage! The food is great too, although we regret not tasting some of the options (Zebra and Emu – both farmed in SA). Once I’ve sorted through the 1,000+ photos I’ll be adding them to my ‘Overseas’ gallery.

Houses in Bo Kapp
Colourful houses line the streets in Bo Kaap


On Saturday 30th November Joe Cornish, a well known and respected North Yorkshire based photographer held a retrospective of 2019 at his gallery in Northallerton. As a ‘friend’ of the gallery I had the opportunity to spend an hour or so listening and talking with him about many of his new images. These range from shots of Wastwater in the Lake District, the North York Moors through to Greenland and Wrangel Island, which is part of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia. The main event, though, was a presentation by Joe of his work during 2019 and we saw many images from the above locations. He was keen to talk about the effect that climate change is having on our world and has decided that he will no longer use air travel after the end of 2020. Joe will concentrate on photography in areas of the world accessible by train or boat. Much of the effect of climate change was evident from his photographs from Greenland where the sea ice is less evident year by year and glaciers and icebergs are shrinking at an alarming rate. I came away from the afternoon reflecting on the fact that many of his photos (the UK one’s) were in locations I could easily get to and photograph. However, I am always amazed how his images seem to have an impact that I would struggle to equal – they do say practice makes perfect.

Landscape in Sandstone
Landscape in Sandstone

You can buy an image similar to the above in the Joe Cornish Gallery for £580 (admittedly larger than mine and the framing must cost a few quid too) but this image can be bought in sizes up to A3 size printed and mounted for a maximum £25 (or less during my sale period!!!) – go on spoil yourself!!!!!!
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