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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.

Monday, February 28, 2011

the Grunge Group - Landscape Master Class

I have just returned from a wonderful landscape masterclass workshop in the Northern Drakensberg. I always find myself artistically recharged after working with an excellent group of photographic students. This was one such weekend. A good workshop, in my opinion is one where there is a dialogue between workshop participant and instructor. The instructor should really be able to walk away saying, "I've learn't something", or "I see things in a slightly different way". I always find that interested and excited (about photography) students always challenge the photographer instructor and enable the instructor to grow in their own right. Maybe this is why I love my job!

Weather in the Drakensberg is as always interesting. Photography in the mornings and the afternoons, although not wholly reliant on rain or shine, was certainly made more challenging by the changing conditions. Patience as ever is usually rewarded and the photographers walked away with some very nice imagery as the Amphitheatre massif seemed to duck in and out of thick cloud. The afternoon shoot on the first day was less successful with low-lying and heavy obliterating any warm glow from the setting sun (I also made the rookie mistake of formatting my cards without having downloaded the images of this particular shoot...it happens to the best of us).

An obscenely early rise on the second day of the workshop had us all trudging up the incredible view from te Witches. This viewpoint never ceases to astound me with the majestic and awe-inspiring vista that is presented to those mad enough to wake at 3am and slither over boulders to get in position for the sunrise.

An interesting question arose during the workshop regarding shooting during the Golden Hours. The 'golden hours' refers to that time of day when the sun is still low on the horizon, say 1-2 hours after sun rise and and the same again before sunset. A number of my best images are taken during this time and twilight. Does this mean that the landscape photographer should ignore the light during the rest of the day. In a word, no, but the reality is that the most interesting light for landscape photography tends to be low directional light. Think of it like this, how many portrait photographers shoot with a bare bulb straight at the subject's face. Very few if any unless under specific circumstances really. Shooting landscape midday is the equivalent of the bare bulb straight on. Instead we like to throw a soft box and take the light off camera (i.e. get some interesting lighting effects from atmosphere and clouds and position the sun low on the horizon. Where the portrait photographer adds gels to colour the light, the landscape photographer waits for the twilight and/or golden hours, to do the gel's work. The reality is that great light is often the principle ingredient to a great photograph. That light is either natural, found (street light is not natural, but it is 'found' and not introduced by the photog) or introduced. Great light tends to happen around the golden hours while flat, harsh, bare bulb light happens during the middle of the day (the length of this time tends to alter according to the seasons and latitude). This is also why bad weather makes for great images. Bad weather often alters the light so that it is no longer flat and harsh, but directional, soft and/or coloured. So, by all means shoot through every hour of the day. In fact, you should. But the best images are likely to happen when the light is interesting.

My sincere thanks to a wonderful group, Joan, Brian, Jenny, Ron, Selwyn and Marco. 


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