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Photo Writing is the web version of the Photo Writing mini-magazine produced by Limephoto and Emil von Maltitz since 2010. As of 2015 it is now completely online. Feel free to browse through the articles and please leave comments in the comments section if you would like to engage with us.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Teacher's Learning - Drakensberg Workshop August 2012

A panoramic stitch of the Milky Way from Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge

One of the greatest perks to being a workshop instructor and photography teacher is that you get to learn so much. Occasionally I feel a touch guilty that I might just be getting more out of the workshop than my own students are getting. This isn’t to say that I’m not working hard to inform and guide the students, but that they give back as much as they are getting and, in my opinion, are often giving more than they realise as it’s information that I’m also hungry for. 

Almost all workshop groups are like this, but some more so than others. This last weekend in the Drakensberg was like that. Paddy .... gave me incredible insight into time-lapse photography, a field that I have only really skimmed the surface of, but with his ideas will be able to dive considerably deeper into. But it was from just about all the photographers that I received a little more inspiration, and a whole lot more teaching in things that often seem to have little to do with photography, but loads to do with being a thinking photographer.

Take Monday morning as we scrambled to make it to the sunrise point before dawn. I’d gotten my times mixed up and had trusted my gps’s dawn and dusk times without checking that the unit was calibrated to the right timezone (I suspect that it has day-light savings time bearied somewhere as the time was exactly one hour later on the gps than it should have been). So for the first time since I have been running this workshop we found ourselves halfway to where we wanted to be but with a gloaming in the sky already (see the panoramic stitch here). The boys Paddy and Will and ever capable Anton from Thanda (my fellow guide on the tour) were able to make a dash for the top and managed. For the rest of us I suggested that we stop where we were and make the most of the light. 

Panoramic stitch from the path leading to the Witches Viewpoint on the Chain Ladder Route.

There wasn’t a single grumble and some wonderful images followed. I was truly impressed as all the photographers who were with me were feeling knackered by this stage. I learned from that. This is what makes real photographers. We all like to gripe and groan that the light isn’t right or that the settings needs something, but my group just got on   it, learning how to cope with what we were given and how to get the best results from that. 

Then there were the little insights into photography that I was practically bombarded with (Thanks Mel for your tips from the experience of multiple teachers on multiple workshops). This is why teachers who listen come away with as much as their own students do. It’s one of the reasons why I love teaching photography. There is so much more to learn. A photographer who stops learning is a photographer who is no longer creating new images. That’s not a good thing.

A neat example of the near-far principle in
landscape photography
The weekend was slightly shorter than the usual workshops as pretty much all of South Africa was booked solid for the long weekend. As a result the trip ended up running from Sundau through to Tuesday rather than the usual Friday to Monday. This meant we had to skip the Tunnel location on the Tugela River, but it did mean that the photographers were able to explore new angles on the Amphitheatre portion of the escarpment that most of my photography students haven’t seen. Thankfully the weather was also less temperamental than it’s been in the last week. Long swathes of snow still top the Drakensberg, but the heavy drifts were all but gone, meaning that walking along the steep paths was still safe. It was also surprising warm considering the tempertures during last week were hovering between -6 and 8 degrees for most of the week. Our conditions were positively mild in comparison (although a cold wind is buffeting the side of the reception hall at Witsieshoek where I am writing this). But the sun is shining and there are beautiful wisps of clouds creating a magnificent backdrop the golden glowing Amphitheatre. Yup, it’s with a heavy that we’ll be trundling back to Durban and the photographers on to Thanda. I can’t wait for my next learning experience with a another group of photographers ;) 

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