Mrs L365 has been badgering me about photo tuition. I have always resisted.
“You mean stand up in front of people and tell them what to do?”
“Yes” she says
“No” I say, as fear coursed through me.
That is usually the end of it. Mrs L365 would drop the subject but also bide her time.
She would bring it up again every so often and had gradually worn me down until, with her usual skill, she has made me believe it was my idea.
So, a photo walk at Elgol and Torrin Pools from 10am till 4pm on Sunday the 19th of August was arranged and advertised. The beach at Elgol is one of the highlights of a visit to Skye. A stunning view, striking cliffs, beautiful light and a handy car park right beside it. It would be the ideal place to discuss and learn about composition, light and grand vistas. Torrin Pools was chosen as the venue for the second part of the walk as it would give us an opportunity for some more technical photography – long exposures, details, balancing your tripod in a freezing cold stream while up to your knees in the water.
Elgol. Home to many stunning views and a great place to start challenging your skills with a camera.
We advertised the walk on our Facebook and Twitter accounts. Posters were put up around Skye and Lochalsh . Quite a few people expressed an interest and some even booked a place! No going back now.
This was plastered all over the place this summer.
I started talking to myself while out taking photos. I treated the Assistants to lessons in capturing the best landscape image. I regaled them with some of my photo anecdotes. They ignored me. Tough crowd.
We (Mrs L365) decided that we, or to be more precise, I would do some trial runs. First was our Facebook friend Brendan. He set up and moderates the Scottish Photographic Community Facebook page. He is also an accomplished landscape photographer. Not an easy start to my new career as a photographic guru.
My walk with Brendon was fun. It was relaxed and informal. I tried to keep the pretentious. techno and arty babble to a minimum. In photography, there is just too much jargon and it can muddy things up. We discussed what Brendan wanted to change/improve in his photography and we used the perfect environment of the bay at Elgol to see what he would achieve. A different approach to composition and some technical settings were decided upon. Brendan survived even though I had him standing in the sea at one point. It was an enjoyable day.
At this point I’m standing well back urging Brendan closer to the sea. If you are not wiping spray off your lens and have wet feet you’re not close enough.
I felt a little bit more confident until about the whole tutoring process until Mrs L365 hit me with a bit of a whammy. She had organised some of her photo friends, professional photo friends, to come up from the big smoke… This was terrifying. People who knew which end of a camera did what and where to point it! Luckily they were event and wedding photographers who hadn’t really practised landscape photography and the day was fun. My confidence was growing.
Kristen, one of our walkers , couldn’t resist getting a little dogscapey with our Senior Assistant. This was a great example of how getting low elongated the foreground which created more interest and reduced the dull middle bit between the shore and the mountains which are the other point of interest in the image. I would also have had the idiot dog facing the other way so it’s bottom wasn’t sticking up in the air. But since it’s impossible to direct either of our assistants I think Kristen did very well.
Cometh the day cometh the chilled, laid back Mr L365. As if. I was wound up about the late arrival of our baby sitter and the knock on lateness of Mrs L365 at the photo walk. It turned out that she was only 10 minutes late but it did very little for my nerves.
Our walkers were a nice mix. We had Julie B, a professional photographer, who like the previous attendees was primarily an event, portrait and wedding photographer. The day before she and Mrs L365 had been photographing a wedding nearby. Then there was Julie D who was a keen novice with a DSLR and wanted to take the scary step up from auto to manual. Finally there was Colin, he is a Twitter friend who wanted to move out of his architectural and macro photography comfort zone. A nicely varied group, who we hoped to entertain and inform for the rest of the day.
We started on Elgol beach, where we tried to show how we would approach a “lovely view” and turn it into a “great picture,” explaining that the two are not the same. A lovely view normally involves you standing somewhere and making a panoramic sweep from horizon to horizon with your eyes, accompanied by a grand gesture and some admiring words. You usually visually tune out the foreground car park you are standing in and at Elgol, the huge mounds of fishing gear by the pier. This cannot be done with a photo it capture the lot be it pretty or ugly. You need to be a little selective. What we had to do was capture the essence of where we were. We had to create a beautiful image that represents the view – we want something that makes a viewer say “Oh, what a lovely picture. That’s Elgol isn’t it?”
We scatter to find the best photo!
We like lots of lovely interesting foreground and background detail in our pictures. It’s not often the most interesting bit is in the middle. This meant getting down and in amongst the shore and surf thus increasing the size of the foreground. It also meant lots of wet knees and bottoms. If the waves aren’t breaking over your boots and the tripod isn’t standing in the sea then you are miles too far away. Welcome to the slightly damp world of the landscape photographer.
Julie D gets her feet wet in search of the best shot.
We progressed along the beach. The sun was out, there was a midge dispersing breeze and Elgol looked beautiful. Our walkers were gaining in confidence and their images showed it. Notes were even being taken! This startled me as I never in a million years thought that anybody would ever take what I said seriously. I presume it was only the sensible stuff that Mrs L365 was saying that was jotted down.
Heading back after a morning of fun on the rocks
Over a delightful lunch at the Blue Shed Cafe in Torrin we reviewed the pictures everybody had taken during the morning. Tick VG’s all round.
The afternoon venue. This was the bit our walkers were really looking forward to. Except for Julie B who’s tripod was a little on the flimsy side making long exposure shots a little risky.
The Torrin Pools, the venue for the second half of the day, are a series of waterfalls and pools that cascade and crash down into Loch Slappin from the spectacular mountains above. They provide a great place to do misty water shots. I was surprised by our walkers. They were hooked, determined to get the fabled and treasured moving water shot. It seems that it is the Holy Grail of aspiring photographers. We couldn’t get them away from their happy splashing in the river. Julie D happily announced that she was “going to go for it” and waded into the middle of the river in search of a better composition. A sure sign of a happy photographer.
Colin and I in our element. In our defence, it is utterly compulsive.
Julie D and Mrs L365 talk about something. I have no idea what it was as I am with Colin in the waterfalls below having too much fun searching for the perfect shot.
Mrs L365 managed to prise the two Julies away from the rushing water but Colin and I continued onwards and upwards in search of the perfect waterfall image. Mrs L365 eventually persuaded us to come out of our little canyons and their captivating waterfalls and we spent a short time practicing environmental portraiture, finishing with the obligatory group photograph of the day.
The day ended there. We had had the best time, indeed an indication of how much I had enjoyed it was that I hadn’t looked at a watch all day. I was taken by surprise when Julie D thanked us for a lovely day. Is it over? Oh…
How about we leave it to our three fabulous walkers to sum up the day?
Colin – I’m not sure where to start, but I wanted to say how much I enjoyed yesterday, and how much I got out of it.
Julie D – Once again I cannot thank you both enough for the most wonderful day! You both really put me at my ease and got the information across in an easy to understand way.
Julie B – Thank you so much for yesterday! I really enjoyed paddling and balancing my camera inches from the sea, and I learned loads about composition and technical gubbins. So many people think you can have a great camera and get great pictures… but even though I do photography for a living, I didn’t know where to start when it came to landscapes. You made it fun and really got me thinking about what I was doing. Oh and I’m not going to forget the few compliments you gave me on my photos 😉
I now want to do more photo walks! How things have changed.