A cold and windy (but wonderful) photowalk at Chiswick House

Like Ernest Shackleton, I’m pleased to say I’ve never lost a man (in the old, non-gendered sense) on any of my photowalks. However, a few of the people who were with me on Sunday might have wondered if we were on a similar expedition, with the associated frostbite… It was windy, sometimes wet, and cold. But it was good fun.

Once again we had a group of people, all keen to learn some new skills, who were better photographers than they had thought. There were a couple of things I heard from many of the participants that showed a defensiveness that wasn’t needed.

The first was, “I haven’t brought a proper camera, just my iPhone [or equivalent].” My response? Why is that any less “proper” than any other camera? Does it take pictures? Then it’s a camera. Just because you use a large format film camera doesn’t make you a better photographer than someone using their phone (and it’s definitely less convenient).

The second was, “I feel I should be doing more.” (Generally in the sense of moving off automatic controls.) But, as with the choice of equipment, does it matter if you’re on full auto or fully manual?

To both of these worries, my answer was the same. Are you happy with your pictures? If the answer to this question is yes, then why worry about equipment or modes? (If it’s no, as it was with some of the attendees, then we had something specific to learn! Which was the point of the walk...)

My follow-up question was more telling: could you get that photograph again if you wanted to? This is the key to improving your photography - being able to consistently get the shot you want. And again, we had some great discussions on how to achieve this in specific settings.

So what did we talk about specifically? Much was concentrated on how great modern cameras are for simplifying difficult lighting situations - we frequently had a bright, cloudy sky and a dark foreground, and HDR mode on the iPhones made easy work of the difficult (for a camera) dynamic range. Those with dSLRs talked about choosing an exposure, exposure settings, and bracketing to solve the same problem. We also used the waterfall in the gardens to play with shutter speeds, discussed using posing and light for more flattering portraits, and how to get sharper shots.

By the end, everyone seemed to have gained something (even if they had lost sensation in their fingertips), and the post-walk coffee was very welcome. My thanks to the wonderful Chiswick Calendar for organising, and I look forward to the next one in the spring.

Something to make me smile before Christmas

Yet another free Chiswick Calendar photowalk (Sunday 29th November)