The conditions forecasted threw the whole weekend into not just plan b, more like plan d or even e...
However, what a wonderful opportunity to showcase our local National Park in the best and most challenging conditions it could possibly offer. Twelve photographers from as far as Norway and Germany, as well as London and Bristol, all arrived prepared for a real adventure on the Friday afternoon.
To start things off we decided to try for an early weekend challenge. A late light shoot at one of eastern Dartmoors iconic tor and tree combos.
In a blizzard and under 30ft of visibility we marched up over Haytor. Horizontal snow and high winds chipping away at any hope of even getting the cameras out. Serious conditions for those who werent used to the challenge. Which is exactly what it turned in to. A challenge just to get to our destination. Determination spurred on by the wintery weather pushed us on. Needless to say the conditions did restrict the shooting and most of us just enjoyed the challenge of the hike more than any of the shots captured. Smiles all round and the thought of a roaring fire, a good meal and local ales at the Church House Inn kept us going for the return leg of the journey...
The roads had been salted and we ventured out into the white winter vista, the topic of conversation being how to shoot the moor in the snow. Camera settings, exposure values and the challenges that the snow will throw up were all covered enroute to Two Bridges. Our initial objective was to get our intrepid team to Wistmans wood before it got too busy with other photographers, which it obviously would do throughout the morning...
Upon hiking up the valley of the west Dart we encounterd fast moving fog which indicated a rise in air temperature and a possible fast thaw. Onwards.
The wood was being dipped in and out of fog. At times the edges of the copse was visible, then without warning the perimeter closed in and the line of sight was reduced to 20-30ft. Fantastic conditions for this spooky ancient location which had real atmosphere and the usual compositional challenges.
A short safety talk to warn of hidden dangers, especially in the snow, and general tips on composition and the pixel hungry togs were let loose in the woods. Both David and myself wandering from client to client offering advice and quizzing them on their compositional sanity in the twisted madness of the woodland.
An amazing few hours was had by all and many new compositions were discovered with fresh eyes from pastures far.
A tip for any photo workshop runner, deliver them hoare frost.
Twelve photographers all walking around the same few acres of land with the biggest smiles and sharing the previews on their camera screens with eachother for a good hour or so.
Lessons learnt by all in composition, camera settings and image styles with myself and David on hand to advise and assist where we could, as well as grabbing some cheeky shots of our own...
I learnt alot about low light handheld shooting in that short time. How to control posture to help the capture of sharper shots and surprisingly managed to put some old 2.2 gun target shooting techniques into use to assist camera shooting.
The 3 shot rule; shooting 3 consecutive images and using the 2nd one. Shooting on a half breath and holding posture for a few seconds rather than a minute or so to eliminate muscle fatigue and induced shake.
A very happy herd of photographers were rounded up and the smiles continued into the evening over dinner. David continued the compositional drive into the evening with a photo talk and live big screen photoshop processing session of some of the shots captured earlier in the days frosted forests.
With the night time temperature down to -5*c the thoughts of possible further hoare frosted forests enticed us all the way to Fernworthy reservoir. A rather questionable drive which was in the end, surprisingly straight forward. A minibus and four cars all within a hundred yards of the lake and forest. But alas, the frosts were on the high moorland edges and beyond our safety net with such a large group. To the coast.
With the roads clear and the moor easy to navigate across, we headed to Plymouth with the intention to get to Wembury beach to include the promised coastal locational aspect of the weekend, (rather than keep it all snowy white and 500m above sea level).
New challenges and a total rethink on subject matter for the whole group. Chasing the tide out and discovering unusual geology in the receeding waters, the togs were challenged to get low and compose with lead in and geological interest. As the sea crept back the clouds began to part and before long we actually had clearing skies with a sunset on the cards. This image was captured a while before the skies parted and light lifted, however it highlighted to one of the group the importance of camera height and possible lead in lines from a near to far subject. Many of the group were completely at home at the coast and didnt need too much advice on composition or camera settings in general, we were on hand to help and advise none-the-less. However, it was interesting to see how others took on the task compared to the snowy captures from earlier in the weekend.
As the sunset blasted vertical orange rays of light with all workshop clients filling cards with some long awaited colour, other than white, myself and David had an opportunity to talk shop for a while and reflect on what had been a great adventure with some fantastic fellow photographers, whom we felt we had now known for more than just a few days.
Watch this space for further David Clapp and/or Mark Lakeman workshops.
Dartmoor Spring colour?
Dramatic South Hams Coastal trek?
North Devon geology hunting? or maybe venturing into our neighbouring counties...
The list is endless. If you feel you could benefit from a workshop or would like a guide to some of our local hotspots and new locations then please contact me through the "Hey Lakeman" page. I will get back to you as soon as possible with suggestions or a plan...