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mountainflute Sunday 1st April 2018 11:47

Photography classes / workshops
I don't know about the seniors on the site, but for me, I've learnt photography while on the job, experimenting with the camera and settings etc., reading up from guides and books and websites. Quite a few professionals I've met haven't had any formal training, and they're quite amazing with their pics.
However, whether amateur or professional, does a formal training in photography help? I have looked around, and I do find a lot of short-term programmes offering to teach photography. However, there are very few, which teach wildlife photography.
So, in case I do find a good programme, is it worth taking the formal training??

kitefarrago Sunday 1st April 2018 12:24

I'd be surprised if you were able to find a programme to teach wildlife photography. It's a fairly niche area.

I think many photography courses concentrate on the basics regarding light (the relation between aperture, shutter speed, iso) and related topics. It's certainly possible to learn this kind of material without any kind of formal training, but I do think that getting information about it beyond trial and error is a good thing since understanding the underlying theory can be helpful when out in the field.

There are books available on wildlife photography, and I think they can open one's minds to different ideas, leaving one with a wider range of options regarding what to make of a particular situation when out in the field. I do think it's worth studying a few of those - if there's a pro wildlife photographer whose work you particularly like, check whether they have published a book with tips.

I think the defining feature of much of wildlife photography (at least for those of us who can't afford to spending weeks on one particular habitat/species) is that one is often presented with situations which don't last long and which one can do little to influence. Wild animals (in particular birds) move a lot, so there often is no way of making an encounter last longer, or even change the angle of the light on the subject. I do think that gaining experience with these situations is very helpful since one learns to pick settings suitable for the situation more quickly (and one learns to have more trust in one's judgement, which takes a bit of the stress not to mess up the opportunity). In order to gain this kind of experience I do think workshops on location can help. You get a lot of chances to practice, and you should get good feedback, and suggestions for what to try, in some specific situation. These kinds of workshops are expensive because they often take place in prime `safari' type locations, but I do think they can help quite a bit.

I should think that a wildlife photography course restricted to a classroom would be of less use in upping one's standard.


iveljay Sunday 8th April 2018 23:44

There are occasional photography workshops at WWT Slimbridge, though they tend to be for the younger photographer. I'm not sure what other reserves do but it may be worth looking on their web sites.

My earliest 'training' in photographing fast moving arial objects was at airshows in my teens. Learning the art of incident light metering, manually focussing with minimal dof and tracking an object doing a well over 100mph to keep it steady in the frame while shooting Ektachrome which at that time was about maxed out at 125 ISO so shutter speeds were not spectacular. Oh yes, and manual wind so you only got one shot in usually.

The great thing about incident light reading is that you can remotely estimate the light falling on an object - when I could afford my first camera many years later with through the lens metering I switched it off for such occasions. If the aircraft was dark camouflaged or polished metal the exposure was generally right whatever as your meter wasn't being fooled in the same way a reflected light meter is. Much the same with the undersides of bif.

Everything else came down to practice, such as being able to operate all the manual controls without looking, accurately tracking focus on a fast moving object and locking part of the subject on part of your focussing screen by panning very smoothly etc.

You got many hundreds of photographers at these events all doing the same thing - it was the norm.

Bird photography is a bit different - most birds don't fly in straight lines for a start, but the answer is the same - practice and take lots of photographs. Personally I shot anything and everything from the Veteran Car run in early November to Weddings, historic visits i.e. Royalty inspecting something, landscapes for calendars, stage photography, my children, passport photos, lab experiments - you name it, and still had time to watch birds, motor racing, party (essential) - whatever.

Practice on blackbirds, blue tits, robins, collared doves - they may be common but trying to catch them in flight is more challenging that a high flying raptor in many ways - you can scrap all your failures these days without it costing anything than your time and eventually you will start to get the odd really good picture.

Simply don't put your camera away, make it part of your life. I tended to use small cameras - Olympus OMs and XAs for many years as they were reliable, small and light with excellent lenses and by then film speeds were slightly faster, even mountain climbers like Chris Bonnigton used OMs - half way up the Eiger every ounce saved was important - you had only one camera and it had to work under conditions that killed batteries. They also had to be good enough to be published to provide funding for such jaunts.

I devoured photography books, knew a few pros and simply shot everything until I got good. I even used my first slr a Practica Vf to deflect a champagne bottle someone threw at me - it survived (with a crease in its top plate) and so did I.

If you want to be a good pianist you practice and for a relatively short space of time you get obsessed and then it is fun and you can get on to the next thing in your life.

Really photographing anything and everything cross pollinates your skills.

It also probaly helped that watching telly or anthing really, bored me and out wanted to be out there in the thick of life living it. It was fun while it lasted and luckily for me it lasted a long time.

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