Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Black and White Photography Magazine Workshop

The only photography magazine that I subscribe to currently is Black and White Photography. They have a reader panel, and one of the benefits of registering for it is that you may get invited along to a workshop so, naturally, I registered a while ago.

In June, I was invited along to a workshop on garden photography down in Sussex. Monochrome garden photography – that’s a challenge! Well, it was meant to be garden photography, but in the end it turned out to be about trying to photograph the garden in the pouring rain, while attempting to keep camera and self dry -- or, better still, trying to keep out of the rain in the greenhouse or garden outhouse. Having said all that, when we could get pictures the light was lovely - very soft and wrapping-around, with no hard shadows.

We were invited along to a lovely house not far from Lewes. I was greeted by a woman at the door who said "Hello, I'm Becky -- I live here." Becky is a wonderful host: she is a great cook, and took the opportunity to provide us with fresh home-made biscuits along with very welcome hot coffee shortly after we all arrived. Did I mention it was pouring with rain?

Becky at her kitchen door
The other participants assembled: Tim Clinch, professional photographer, was the leader of the workshop; Elizabeth Roberts and Mark Bentley represented the magazine; Donovan Rees, Sarah Watkins and Jill T were the other members of the reader panel. The invitation to Jill T turned out to be something of an accident: she had been to a previous workshop, but readers are apparently only entitled to one, so although she took part during the day, her pictures would not be published in the magazine.
Tim Clinch
The day was taken up with attempting to photograph Becky's garden, mostly holding umbrellas for each other, and taking it in turns in the greenhouse, Becky's studio/outhouse, and even in Becky's house itself. I started off trying to get pictures of rain on leaves and flowers (if you've looked at this blog before you will know the kind of thing), using some of my favourite tricks (some knitting needles anchored in the ground to ease plants non-destructively out of the way; reflectors made from scrumpled-up kitchen foil glued onto card to light the underside of flowers). I ended up being particularly taken with a wigwam, presumably normally used to grow sweet peas, which was slowly collapsing in one of the borders.
Wigwam triptych
Becky's studio provided a real point of interest to me -- still life is not my thing, but the bottles and bric-a-brac on one of her benches appealed to me. I wanted to simplify composition a bit, so I asked Tim if he thought Becky would mind if I rearranged some of the items. Tim's response was immediate -- Don't be afraid of styling a subject. You can always put things back afterwards. So, I had a lot of fun arranging and simplifying the composition -- and a good lesson learned.
Becky's bench
During the afternoon, we downloaded our memory cards onto Tim's computer and made a first set of edits. I was very pleased that Tim, Elizabeth and Mark all seemed to like the pictures that were my favourites from the day. Having said that, the others made plenty that I thought were much better than in my own.

I was keen to get a picture of Becky as well -- being a good sport, she was happy to pose in her kitchen doorway as we packed up -- see above.

This month’s B+W (October 2011) has a report of the workshop. They chose a picture from my wigwam series and one of the workshop still life for publication. It was great to see those and everybody else's workshop pictures. Donovan has put his page on Flickr.

In all, a great experience and a lot of fun -- even the rain.

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