Photo walk with a spot of training thrown in. -
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Photo walk with a spot of training thrown in.

http://www.randelljohnphotography.com/photo-walk-spot-training-thrown-in/

I had a great afternoon today, and spent it with my mates Mike Groake and Nobby North.
We’ve been trying to get together for weeks, but work commitments and holidays have been getting in the way, so it was good to eventually meet up.

Both Mike and Nobby are fairly new to using DSLR’s, but were keen to learn more and improve their photography, so I agreed to spend a few hours with them to help them along the winding path to taking better photographs.

Mike Groake and Nobby North Mike Groake and Nobby North

Neither of them have ever had any formal training in photography, and up until now have been using their camera’s in Auto and Semi-Auto modes.

I was determined that by the end of the afternoon I’d have them both shooting in full Manual Mode, and that they’d have a better understanding of correct exposure, metering, and how important the quality and direction of light is in photography.
If I had time I was going give them a quick intro into using fill flash properly all without melting their brains in the process.

We started at mid day with a nice cuppa in Bridgend market, and I talked them through the basics of the exposure triangle, f-stops, metering modes, camera metering theory and went through all the different dial modes which in total took about and hour and a half. Smoke started emanating from their ears at this stage, so it was time to pick up our gear and head out into the sun.
Today was another beautiful day in Wales, with bright sunshine – Ideal for teaching purposes.
It gave me a great opportunity to show Mike and Nobby that hard direct light is still a very usable light source if handled with a little bit of thought, and the first thing we did was a quick practical on the ‘Sunny 16 Rule’.

This shot was taken by facing Mike into the Northern sky and at the same time standing him on the edge of the shade of a tree to remove any 'Toplight'. This shot was taken by facing Mike into the Northern sky and at the same time standing him on the edge of the shade of a tree to remove any ‘Toplight’.

We walked and talked as we headed towards Newbridge Fields and stopped along the way to discuss some of the problems harsh light can cause photographers. The underpass on Angel Street proved to be a perfect spot to demonstrate the difference that placing your subject on the edge of a shaded area can have in improving a photograph, while we were stopped I showed Mike and Nobby a few tricks to get their exposures spot on, including using grass as an exposure metering aid.

As the afternoon progressed , I started introducing the concept of depth of field, and even though they weren't using pro lenses, extremes of Bokeh could be achieved by understanding the relationship focal length, subject to camera distance, subject to background distance and selection of Aperture. As the afternoon progressed , I started introducing the concept of depth of field, and even though they weren’t using pro lenses, extremes of Bokeh could be achieved by understanding the relationship of focal length, subject to camera distance, subject to background distance and aperture.

I also wanted to pass on some ideas on composition, lighting ratio’s and showed Mike and Nobby how I find and use directional light.

Turning one side of Mikes face to a light source (in this case the sky peeking through a gap in the tree canopy), I could create a three-dimensional feel to the image, that would be flattering for the subject, especially if we took the photograph from the shadowed side of the face i.e Short lighting.

Finding nice clean pools of light amongst trees isn't alway's easy, especially when the wind picks up. But we managed to find an area that was lit with a nice pool of light. The sun behind Mike gives him some seperation from the background. But more importantly for this demonstration, I turned his head towards me to create shadow on the side of his face nearest to the lens. Short lighting. Finding nice clean pools of light amongst trees isn’t alway’s easy, especially when the wind picks up. But we managed to find something usable.
The sun behind Mike gives him some separation from the background. But more importantly for this demonstration, I turned his head towards me to create shadow on the side of his face nearest to the lens. This is called ‘Short Lighting’ as opposed to ‘Broad Lighting’, which has a tendency to make subjects appear physically heavier.

We moved further into the park, and I thought it was time to start adding some more compositional elements into the shoot. I described some of the methods photographers use to add interest in their photographs and in the following example we used the slats of a park bench as lead in lines to direct the viewer’s eye towards Mike.

Using the slats of a park bench to provide lead in lines in our image. Additionally I combined a shallow depth of field, focused my camera on Mike and pushed his camera out of focus. Helping to give the image a three dimensional quality. The park bench was cemented into the floor and must admit in ideal circumstance I'd have moved into some shade to knock out some of the hard light falling onto Mikes curly locks. But as a teaching aid, I think the lead in lines and shallow depth of field worked fine. Using the slats of a park bench to provide lead in lines in our image. Additionally I combined a shallow depth of field, focused my camera on Mike and pushed his camera out of focus. Helping to give the image a three-dimensional quality.
The park bench was cemented into the floor and must admit in ideal circumstance I’d have moved into some shade to knock out some of the hard light falling onto Mikes curly locks. But as a teaching aid, I think the lead in lines and shallow depth of field worked fine.

Mike and Nobby spent some time practicing selective focusing, and at the end of this part of the afternoon it was really apparent that reading your camera’s manual is really important. Understanding all the functions of the various buttons, as well as being well versed in the camera’s menu is so important when your learning how to take full control of your camera.

I wanted to shoot a high key portrait so we headed over to the cricket pavilion, where I knew a light coloured wall would make a decent backdrop.

Standing Nobby against this off white wall, and metering of the sky that was lighting him. I overexposed the scene by 11/3 stops. The overexposure turned the wall totally white and bleached Nobby's normally suntanned skin giving me a great high key portrait. Although I added some contrast back in Photoshop to give the image a more grittier feel. I really like this shot and I think it's my favourite from the afternoons shoot. Standing Nobby against this off white wall, and metering of the sky that was lighting him. I overexposed the scene by 11/3 stops. The overexposure turned the wall totally white and bleached Nobby’s normally suntanned skin giving me a great high key portrait. Although I added some contrast back in Photoshop to give the image a more grittier feel. I really like this shot and I think it’s my favourite from the afternoons shoot.

Time was marching on and really wanted to do a little bit of flash photography with the guys, and knew a great spot where I could demonstrate the versatility of using your camera in Manual Mode – Reducing the ambient light with our shutter speed, but then adding flash to light the main subject of the image.

Camera and flash in Manual, I underexposed the ambient light by 1 2/3 stops and added light from an on camera 580 EXII Speedlight, also set in Manual at 1/8th power. W.B Cloudy and 1/4 CTO Gel fitted to my flash head to match my camera's white balance. Camera and flash in Manual, I underexposed the ambient light by 1 2/3 stops and added light from an on camera 580 EXII Speedlight, also set in Manual at 1/8th power.
W.B Cloudy and 1/4 CTO Gel fitted to my flash head to match my camera’s white balance.

Was it a successful afternoon?

Yes, all but the melting brains bit. It was a lot of information for Mike and Nobby to absorb in such a short time.

The main thing though is that they’ve now been given some foundation to their photography, a starting point from where they can improve their knowledge and skill base. Whats more by four o’clock both Mike and Nobby were using their camera’s in full manual, and could see the advantages when you take control of the camera, just as it should be.

I also had a lot of fun hanging out with them, and talking some snaps. We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.
Thanks for a great afternoon lads.

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