Skye - now sold out.

Update - this trip is now sold out! Just a quick post to let you all know that a space has become free for the Skye workshop this March 5th-10th.  One of the participants can't make it due to damaging their knee. So if you were interested in this trip - now is the time to book, as there's only one space :-)

Intermission

I'm away to the isle of Eigg to do a workshop this week. Service will be resumed once I'm back. in the meantime, enjoy this intermission.

Harris & Skye

This November I'll be running some workshops in the north west of Scotland. The Isle of Harris and the Isle of Skye. I still have some spaces for these and thought I could perhaps persuade some of you - who have been considering coming on a workshop with me, to come on one of these trips (hey, you can of course come on both if you like!). Each year I always find these trips slow to fill up because, I'm sure, that for most beginner photographers, they think that sunny weather and summer are the best times to take out the camera and make images. It just seems to be the nature of the beast. Also, most amateur photographers believe that Summer is the time for vacation, and winter is the time to board yourself up in the house, beside the fire, and wait it out until the sun comes back in Spring.

Well this is all very well, but most photographers don't realise that the best images are made on the edge of changing weather, and we get a lot of that here in Scotland in the winter time. With one weather front passing over, only to be replaced by another weather front, there is never a dull moment.

I also find that people tend to take mental snap shots of the weather during their working day. If we get up in the rain and go to work in the rain, then we think it's been raining all day. Ever since I started to do the workshops, I've never had a week where the weather is constantly wet or windy. It seems that as the week goes, I forget that we started off with a lot of wet weather and by the end of the week, we've experienced days of sun, cloudy weather, still mornings, windy evenings. It just keeps on changing.

The above four photos were taken this February on my Glencoe weekend workshop. The final day we were outside, the rain kept on coming in. I've seen photographers for years on my workshops want to pack away their cameras and consider the day is finished if the rain comes on. But it's actually a very beautiful time to make images, if we can manage to keep the rain of our graduated filters and front lens elements. Anyway, just look at the moods in the sky I captured. This is only possible when things are changing, and dark clouds are passing through - and this kind of thing doesn't happen on sunny days.

But winter is not just about changing moods on the landscape. Consider this Skye image below, shot last December:

Those magenta tones are very visible in winter time, and mostly never seen in summer. In fact, I often think that summer is full of yellow tones in the sky. Winter on the other hand seems to provide some great textures to pay with in many ways: moving changing light, a low sun with long shadows across the landscape, and also of course fast moving clouds blending and blurring the skies as in this shot here of Horgabost beach on Harris:

So I'm hoping this post has given you some ideas about shooting in winter.

If you have been thinking for a while about coming on a workshop with me at some point, then we're just coming into the best times of the year for shooting great, changing light.

Printing Workshops

I'm in the middle of looking into setting up some printing workshops for next year. The way I see it is that i've had a lot of participants over the past few years who, if they've mastered the editing on a computer side (otherwise known as the digital dark room in my book), few, actually print their material out. For the select few who do, there seems to be an endless disagreement about what is the right way to do it. Some find their prints too dark (a common mistake), or when viewing them, I find there's a lot more that could have been done to optimise them.

What I find very interesting is how we 'read' a print. If you've been fortunate to seen the work of Ansel Adams in the flesh for instance, you soon realise what a great print is. It's very easy to think that most prints are good. Most prints are mediocre. Like your first photoshop edits, over a few years, you come back to your first prints and realise they weren't very good at all. It takes a long time to master the final print. Like I say on my workshops - there is no good-taste button in photoshop. You can go too far, over saturate, over sharpen, completely kill the image and not realise it at the time. That's where experience comes in.

I know there's a lot of technical stuff to cover, and most get very bogged down in that region. But shouldn't the final print be the final statement? How do you convey what you were feeling in the final print? Many suffer because they can't get their prints to come out in a consistent way.

Printing requires an understanding of , and adoption of colour management practices. Just how do you make sure that what you see on your computer screen - matches exactly what you anticipate in the final print? I've had so many emails from people who tell me they have their colour management 'close enough'. Well, it shouldn't be 'close enough'. That little statement suggests that it's not consistent and they're sometimes surprised by what pops out of the printer.

I'd love to give a workshop on making prints. I thought it would be great to cover some of the principles of colour management right through to digital dark room techniques and then the preparation for final output. Lastly, accurate print evaluation is really important.

I'd like to run some practical hands on workshops in my office, in the centre of Edinburgh next year. At the moment, my idea is to limit each workshop to a group of four, each with a computer, Eizo display and screen calibrator - for over a weekend. We'd go through setting up our environment for colour management, editing in the digital dark room, and producing high quality prints in a repeatable - expected way on an Epson printer.

Please don't ask me any specifics about it just yet - as I'm in the middle of trying to work it all out, but I'll let you know when I do have a more concrete syllabus for a weekend workshop.

Assynt workshop - last minute cancellations

Two of my clients for the Assynt workshop this October, have had to pull out because of ill health.

This is just a short post to say that I now have 2 spaces available for those of you who had been interested in the workshop, but had noticed these past few months that it was sold out. I expect these spaces to go very quickly.

You can find out more about the Assynt workshop, as well as book (if you want to come)  here.

Worldwide Photographic Safaris 2012

This Tuesday past, I announced to  subscribers to my news letter, that I am running two Photographic Safaris in South America next year.

The Patagonia photographic Safari is now sold out.

The Bolivian Altiplano Safari safari still has a few spaces left.

If you'd like to be put on the waiting list for for the Patagonia trip, then you can do it by going to the Patagonia workshop page and choosing the 'book online' button (confusing, I know), or go directly here.

If you're not part of my news letter, and would like to get first hand news of any forthcoming workshops, then feel free to subscribe.

I'd just like to say a big thank you to all those who have booked these trips so far. I feel 2012 is going to be an exciting year!

Recent workshop Testimonials

This month seems to have been a bumper one for very nice emails from participants on my workshops. I thought it would be nice to show you some of them as I think the images are rather lovely, and of course, the comments are very nice too.

Bruce,

I enjoyed the course very much. For me the essence was “less is more”. Trying to simplify the landscape to make a stronger picture.

With the right balance of theory and practice, I’m sure it will move my photography to the next level.

I included some pictures from the last morning. (Not quite had the time to edit them completely)

Thanks to everyone for the good company !

Regards,

Peter De Wilde

And many thanks to you Bruce for an eye opening few days.

I enjoyed and learnt from your critiques and will be spending probably even more time over my future photos as i try to put some of your composition ideas into action.

I enjoyed the whipping we got from the weather which may have been dire but gave us one or two exceptional moments (i spent at least one of them frantically wiping my lens....) the likes of which can only happen during dreadful weather! The food was fantastic, far beyond my expectations from Scotland (!) and went down better thanks to all those fun discussions we had at table. My bed was also very comfortable though i never spent very much time in it! It was great to meet all three of you and i hope you are all settling back into your post-Eigg lives. I also attach a photo from the last morning.....

All the best,

Duncan. (frae France)

Hi Bruce

I really enjoyed the Eigg Trip last week.  The content of the course was just what I was looking for, with the right balance of tuition / guidance and space to try out the techniques you taught us.  I particularly enjoyed the feedback from the critique and post-production sessions and am looking forward to using the skills I've learned to (hopefully) simplify and make stronger images in the future.

Best regards Niall

Hi Bruce,Thanks for the unforgettable experience of last month's Inverpolly workshop. It was everything I expected and more. You managed to have us use virtually every minute of that weekend in an enjoyable and instructive photographic experience. One of my reasons for attending the workshop was my expectation that there are limitations to what you can learn from books and that you just need to be "out there" with someone guiding you. From the first hour in the field you proved that to be true. Furthermore, despite of the busy schedule, you manage to create a relaxed and nice atmosphere in the group.

As you might remember, I stayed a few more days in Scotland after the workshop. I was glad you convinced me to stay in the area instead of traveling a lot. Basically, during the morning and evening hours I only revisited our workshop locations. Because you requested results ;-) I included some pictures of those sessions.

Your guidance in the field was excellent and the critique sessions were most useful with composition and photo editing guidelines, including some eye openers, like reconsidering aspect ratio. As said, thank you for everything you taught me, which is a lot. And since there is still even more to learn, you will probably see me in one of your 5 day workshops somewhere next year, together with a colleague who became enthusiastic when hearing about my experiences.

Regards, Maurice Zelissen

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Well, needless to say, that sort of feedback makes me feel very, very happy indeed, despite the fact that I don't get a chance to make any images myself during the workshops (well, sometimes i do - if the participants are engrossed in what they're doing and we're well into the week).

So I'm now getting ready to take a break from the workshops until the end of August and I have a few plans in order, so I can make some new images of my own. Running a workshop business is very satisfying, especially when you see people 'get' what you're trying to convey to them.

Still, I don't get much of a chance to work on my own images, so this summer I'm off to Iceland, Norway and then Switzerland in October. For the next few months, this is my time, to be creative and work on my own art. I'm looking forward to it, and I'm also looking forward to having rewarding experiences with future participants in my up-coming workshops this Autumn and Winter.

2nd Lofoten Photographic Safari Sold Out

Dearl, all, Just a quick post today (as I'm currently on the Isle of Harris conducting a workshop) to let you know that the 2nd (and last) photographic safari to Lofoten, Norway for 2012 is now sold out.

I'd like to thank you all for your keen interest in this trip.

There will be news in the next month or so about some further 'world-wide' photographic trips which will be announced firstly in my monthly news letter.

If you haven't subscribed to my news letter and would like to know about these trips when they are announced, then you can do it here.

Thanks once again. I've been blown away by the level of interest for this trip.

2nd Lofoten Photographic Safari - March 2012

Due to popular demand (the February trip to Lofoten, Norway sold out in a matter of a few hours), I've organised a second trip for March 18th to the 24th. The price is £1295. I had a few people on the waiting list, and so far, three of them confirmed they are coming in March with me.

So this leaves 1 space left.

If you'd like to come, then you can review the trip details here but please bear in mind that the dates are 18th of March to the 24th of March inclusive of travel days. I have not advertised this single space on this workshop page because I want to give people on my blog first option.

if you decide you want to come - please email me and the first full-commitment email I receive will be considered the final place taker for this trip.

I'd like to thank everyone for their interest in this trip. It's blown me away just how much interest there has been in it.

This is the last workshop in Norway for 2012.

Lofoten Islands Photographic Safari, Feb 2012

Today I just announced via my news letter, that I'm doing a six day photographic safari in Lofoten next February. I just thought I'd let you know that it is now sold out.

I may put on a second trip, so please let me know by putting yourself on the waiting list.

This is the first announcement about some 'worldwide' photographic trips that are in the pipeline. Hopefully some more concrete news at the end of May.

Workshop Reviews

Just a quick post today. The past week or so I've received reviews from two participants about the Assynt Workshop last year and also the Skye workshop this year.

The first review is from Mukul, who made the following image on my Assynt & Inverpolly workshop:

The second review is from Norrie, who was on the Skye workshop with me a few weeks ago:

I think they both sum up the workshops very well.

I like to think of my workshops as just that - true workshops, where we spend a lot of time critiquing images, learning from them and then apply what we're learning back out in the field.

The trips do tend to be 'full on', and we do immerse ourselves in photography for the entire week. If participants are willing to put a lot into the trip with an open mind, then they usually get a lot out of them. I know I learn a lot too.

Happy reading.

Skye Workshop - March 14th to 18th

Just a quick posting today to let you know there are only two spaces left for the Skye workshop this March if you're thinking about coming.

I made the shot above on the last workshop on Skye in December. We had terrific weather for the week we were on the island and the light as you can see was amazing too. This image was used by Outdoor Photography (UK publication, not to be confused with the US Outdoor Photographer magazine) for their February front cover. It's the second time I've had my images used by OP.

Often the coldest time of the year here in Scotland is around February and it often extends into March. Winter light is the best light so I'm looking forward to what March may bring in terms of dramatic light on Skye.

Last day of Skye Workshop

This post was written on the last day of my last workshop this year. I never got round to finishing it, but since I've just scanned the image below, I feel it's fitting to include the posting, post event, post posting if you like. --

Today is the last day of my last workshop of 2010, and I can't help but feel rather reflective about this year and just how it's gone.

It's been a bit of an amazing year for me. I've done quite a lot of workshops, I've met a load of really nice people on my trips and I feel I've expanded my life in a direction that I never really thought I'd go.

One thing that has been incredibly inspiring is just how positive a lot of the participants can be. They want to get out there, to experience the landscape and will do anything in their power to get to a workshop - even if the weather here in the UK is trying its very hardest to make sure the trip doesn't go ahead. I've also had a lot of encouragement from participants who believe in what I do, and for that, I can only thank them.

So I end today's last workshop with an image from Elgol. I spent a bit of time with Simon trying to express how using a rock in the foreground of a wide-angle shot will not work by using any old rock. What we use or choose to put into our frame should be elegant, have some form of symmetry to it, or as Simon says, it should be a 'pretty rock'. I think it just has to be 'special'. So we spent a bit of time with what I felt was a 'special' rock and I used it to compose the shot you see above of the Cuilins of Skye - only the second time in my life that I've seen them with snow on them.

End of season Workshop

I'm on the isle of Skye right now, half way through a workshop and we're having some terrific weather. Which is in some ways, surprising to most people here in the UK because England is mostly buried under some of the worst snow and blizzard conditions we've had for a long time, and Scotland, particularly the east coast, is inundated with terrible weather too.

But Skye and the north west, has got off lightly and things here are really great. We've had some beautiful mornings, and we even ventured up to the Storr yesterday evening for sunset. The main image is by Simon on the workshop. We've had some long distances to cover as Skye is a *big* island, but we've managed to get to Elgol and a few other nice locations on time for sunrise each morning.

I think it's interesting that winter often gives the best light here in Scotland, but for some reason, we seem incapable of dealing with any thickness of snow that comes our way. It's surprising really as Switzerland, Germany, etc, treat this kind of weather as the usual and everything continues as usual.

I'd like to finish this posting by saying how much of a terrific year I've had running the workshops. It's fitting to find that Outdoor Photography magazine here in the UK have chosen one of my Skye images to adorn the cover of their Christmas edition, while I finish off the year with my last workshop on Skye too. I feel this is a nice way to have closure on the year and it makes me feel encouraged about the year ahead.

Assynt Workshop Critiques

In September I carried out a workshop on the Isle of Eigg and I reviewed an image by each participant on this very blog. I thought it would be a nice feature, as and when I have some spare time, to review or critique some of the images from each workshop I do per month. So I'm going to continue with a review of the Assynt trip I did this October. We were very lucky with the weather, experiencing some really nice cold, calm days for most of the trip.

The first image I'd like to discuss is Barbara's image of Stac Pollaidh. Barbara is a beginner in photography and we spent a bit of time during the week covering hyper-focal focussing so that she could get her images sharp. It wasn't easy as she has one of the kit lenses which manages to rotate the front element each time she adjust focus or changes the placement of her ND grad filter, but she did really well and I loved this particular image she shot through the week.

I think it's very tempting to want to make images dark and dramatic, but the soft light on the mountain needed to be brought out without adding any contrast, so we did some fine tuning in Photoshop for this one. I liked the composition - Stac Pollaidh is mostly on a third on the right hand side of the frame and I feel the foreground trees aren't too distracting as they're nicely balanced and don't intrude into the space occupied by the mountain. We did some slight cropping to this shot during the critiques, but I have to say that there was very little that needed to be done, and that's an important lesson in it's own : leave it alone if it conveys what you want it to in the first place.

The next image below was made by Frank. We were at this loch a few times, which I feel is always worth doing because you get to understand a location and work out better compositions each time you return. So often in my workshops, we will visit the same location at least more than once. Frank used the light of the sun on the reeds to give a bit of mid ground presence and a grad on the sky to stop the ground from under-exposing. I liked his composition because there is an equal distance between the edges of the rock and the edges of the frame. I do seem to be very sensitive to balance in a shot these days I felt that Frank had created a very balanced foreground. My only crit was that standing a little further back and using a higher focal length lens would have brought the mountains more into the shot. At the moment they feel a little too far away for me. That's the problem with wide angle lenses, you can exaggerate foregrounds at the cost of pushing the background further away. But it's a lovely shot all the same, which is another important lesson. Just because the image didn't live up to perhaps what you intended, it has a soul of it's own and you should just let it be what it is. And it's a lovely image.

Els spent a bit of time with me going over compositions for the following shot. We spent a bit of time trying to get the right placement of the tree in the foreground so that it didn't intrude on anything in the background. The first few attempts led to images with clashing objects and the clouds reflected in the water caused some clashing too. This image worked out well because we moved further up the bank, perhaps maybe only a couple of feet. I often find that a composition can live or die purely by moving a few feet back or forward. Subtle changes also affect the composition which is why I'm a believer in first finding your composition, then setting up the tripod and using it to fine tune what you have.

Henk too the following image of Suliven early one morning. The day started off with little potential but as the sun rose, we realised there was a lot of drama and colour in the sky. The red tones at the horizon is the sun attempting to break through the heavy cloud cover. Under my instruction, Henk used a very long shutter speed for this image, courtesy of some ND filters to get the streaking effect across the sky. One way to create movement in a static landscape is to blur things, which I'm very fond of doing when the light and conditions are right. The cloud cover had enough contrast to project some movement and the wind was moving the clouds across the landscape at a pace that I knew would work well for this intended photo.

Mukul, I got the feeling, wasn't happy with most of his efforts during the week. That's often a sign of someone aiming too high, too quickly I feel, but despite how he felt, I thought this image was stunning. I think Rainbows are a little cliche, and only work well if they just so happen to appear in a well composed landscape shot. Mukul created a really interesting composition here. The light on the far away mountains is great, the rainbow occupies the north west area of the frame and is balanced by some bracken in the bottom right hand side of the frame. I also like the foreground foliage as it seems to give a 'foundation' to the image. It's tonality is similar to the mountains, but at the same time, it's non-distracting.

Tonino shot this image of the Stac Pollaidh mountain range from afar and he went straight for what was important: the drama in the sky. I love this image because of the mood as well as the composition. Keeping the mountains right at the bottom of the frame gives the main actor here (the sky) space to show off. The mountains act merely as a prop, a way of giving context to the sky.

As you can see, we had some great weather during the week. Many thanks to Barbara, Els, Frank, Henk, Mukul and Tonino for coming along.

Torridon Workshop

I'm in Torridon right now conducting a workshop with a group of six. This morning, we went out in one of the most beautiful days I've seen in Torridon for a long time and Hartmut, one of the participants made this image of some of us at Loch Clair (please click on the image for a much larger view).

Hartmut seemed to be much more interested in documentary shots (he was always photographing me during my talks), that I felt perhaps that Landscape was maybe not so much of an interest for him. But I'm very taken with this shot - it's a really nice blend of someone's interest in both documentary and landscape photography.

Many thanks to Hartmut for allowing me to show this image (and not incur any special license fee that he keeps joking with me about).

---

Postscript - this was written yesterday, and since then, the workshop has sadly ended. I had a lovely time with the group they were such good company. So without further adieu, here are some contact sheets of the few images we chose to discuss at our critique and edit:

It was a great trip and as usual, the weekends are simply far too short. It's always a blast for me if the folk on the trip are willing to get into the trip and for that, I'd like to thank Fiona, Linda, Hartmut, James, John & Neil for coming along and creating such a nice group environment.

Ethiopia and things

Sorry my postings have been very quiet of late. I've had a lot of workshops and things on off late, so it's been a bit hectic. I thought I'd let you all know that I'm off to Ethiopia sometime in the next few weeks. I won't be able to post anything on the blog because there is no internet access there, but what I do intend to do is write up a journal about my daily activities and the 'memorable' photographs I hope to capture each day. This is with the intention of coming home and creating a pseudo-diary of events on my blog, with the processed film pictures to go with the writing. I think since I'm a film shooter, this is going to be a really nice way of letting you see what happened each day etc.... I think it matters little that the entries will not be in real time.

So anyway, I was on Eigg last week with a group of eight people. We had a great time and I have a really nice mixture of different nationalities: Swiss, Swedish, Polish, Portuguese, English and of course one Scottish person too ;-) I hope to post a contact sheet or two from the groups efforts later on this week once I have had some time to rest. We ended the workshop on a nice note by putting together one big long slideshow with everyone's best images in it and married it to the music of Martyn Bennet and some of his recordings from the Glen Lyon CD. Very atmospheric it was too!

Arran Workshop

Last week I spent the week on the isle of Arran with a group of four participants. We had a good time and managed to cover a lot of different varied landscapes on Arran.

Arran is a subtle island. It does not have the dramatic peaks of Skye, nor the stunning expansive beaches of Harris, but as the tourist brochures say, it is 'Scotland in minature'. With a ring road that is 60 miles in circumference, we found most locations were within half an hour driving distance and so set off each morning around 5am to capture some of the best light. My favourite location is Pirate bay on the east side, as you may have seen on my portfolio of Arran to date, but there's a lot more to this island than initially meets the eye.

Where we stayed was ideal. I liked the rooms and we had a sitting room dedicated to us in the day time so we could review our images of the day and I even managed to slot in a showing of Michael Kenna's 'Hokkaido' video, which he kindly gave me permission to use (many thanks to the joy of giving something http://www.jgsinc.org/index2.php). It was interesting because each day I kept asking everyone if they wanted to see the video and most folk were too interested in getting some sleep or working on their own images, but on our last day I managed to shoe-horn it in and it wasn't soon before everyone was glued to it. He's a master of simplicity and it's something I'm keen to focus on during my workshops.

Many thanks to Annie, Dorin, Milan and Peter for coming along.

Eigg Workshop 1 Space Available

Just a quick note to let you all know that one of the guys on the Eigg workshop this September can't make it. So if you were keen to come to Eigg this September, there is now a free space for one lucky individual on my workshop.

First come, first served. :-)