Those were the words that went through my head when I arrived at Marsh Tracks, Rhyl for the Welshot BMX shoot on Friday 26th April. It then dawned on me that it was 30 years ago when I got my first BMX. Oh, how I feel old.
Academy Member and Team Leader John Evans put the evening together after many visits to the track using his son as cover so that he could play at being a kid again !
When I got there everything was in full swing. The riders were doing their stuff and photographers were all over the place getting every angle covered. Of course the event wouldn’t be complete without Lee and I found her at the start line giving out orders to photographers and riders alike. Eifion was in the thick of the action assisting photographers but still within earshot.
Picture taken by Gill McGowan
Although it wasn’t raining there was a bitterly cold wind howling around which was making the riders work a little harder but you wouldn’t have noticed, they never stopped. The evening sun and scattering of cloud provided a bright colourful background to shoot against. This provided great opportunities to shoot silhouettes as well as riders lit with off-camera flash.
Photographers were literally getting down ‘n’ dirty. It’s one thing getting low down to capture the action but to lie down in the middle of the track with 3 BMX’ers hurtling towards you is pushing it. These welshotters will do anything to get “the shot” and getting covered in dust from the track didn’t seem to phase anyone.
Picture taken by Gill McGowan
With John E, John A, Eifion and Paul on hand to assist there was plenty of knowledge and experience being passed around. We had wide shots, zoom, panning, off camera flash, ambient light, a mixture of both. John Evans then had the daredevils lying down on the track with riders heading straight for them. John covers motor sports so he knows exactly where you need to be to get the best shots when it comes to anything that is fast.
No Chips….that’s right there were no Welshot chips on this event but chocolate and hot drinks were enough of a pit stop for the gang. After a quick break we were gifted with a lovely sunset which took us through some great silhouette shots and onto the real fun with flashes. The ambient light had pretty much gone now so it was all down to the photographer and their skills. Getting the lighting just right on a fast moving subject is not easy but I’m sure all delegates will agree that after this event they’ve now got it nailed.
Picture by Keith Barlow
If you are serious about capturing live action shots then this event is an ideal way to practice your skills. The riders were very accommodating and kept a steady flow of traffic coming through the main jumps where welshotters where honing their skills.
I must say that the riders were a great bunch of guys and were clearly lapping up the attention. I’m sure it won’t be long before this event is on again.
Big thanks to the Welshot team for setting this up and also for constantly looking for new ideas, opportunities and experiences for Welshot Members.
See!, See what I did there!?! Sorry I was trying to make a joke, nevermind! I guess some of the dry humour of being in the company of 3 of the UKs top photo post processing guys has to rub off on you when you’ve just spent the day “geeking out” on some amazing image processing software. I was very impressed with the effort that went into the day from everyone (I was actually impressed the night before when I received the itinerary from Lee).
The day started (as it always does with Welshot) with a warm welcome from the Welshot team and our hosts for the day, John Arnold from www.photowalkthrough.com, Gavin Hoey from www.gavtrain.com and Eric Renno from www.tipsquirrel.com. Gavin was first to talk on his thoughts on what is creative photography, this was a real insight that for some of us who worry about if an image conforms to the “rule of thirds” and would certainly make us think more about creating a “great image” than worrying about rules (which are made of course to be broken).
One of the example images Gavin showed us how to create was the use of an ND400 filter and how to make best use of these types of filters to blur movement in an image, this was a snippet of what was talk about:
Next up is somebody i’ve known for a few years (and also actually introduced me to Welshot in the first place via his Podcast) and that’s John Arnold. Johns a real advocate (as is myself) of the amazing Adobe Lightroom. John gave an overview of the killer features of Lightroom including keywording, collections and how it’s possible to automate your post processing of images by the use of bulk edits (something that’s saved me many a wasted hour).
Eric Renno then took the stage to give us a presentation which he used his iPhone to present from (!). Eric shows us what’s possible in some of the leading mobile apps such as Photosynth, Snapseed and Photoshop Touch (to mention a few). Erics passion for this kind of image post processing was obvious and I have to say I’m totally impressed with what’s now possible by the use of a phone (well let’s face it, a portable computer – how many people really use their phones as a phones now anyway, not many I think).
After lunch the day continued with many, many ideas and tips with how to get the best out your images you’ve taken with a variety software tools. The one I was personally very impressed with (and subsequently now purchased myself) was John Arnolds demo of the Nik Collection available (now at a reduced price from Google www.niksoftware.com).
The afternoon concluded with getting some fresh air and doing a photo “Scavenger Hunt” which involved seeking out a list of things to photograph and being creative with them. Gavin then took a selection of images from our cameras and showed us how he would process them using some of the methods that had been shown during the day.
There’s a saying that “you get out what you put in” well today is just one example where the effort of everyone at Welshot paid off with what the delegates got out. Well done team!
Ferris Bueller may have been talking about the 1958-1963 250GT California Spyder but the same thought passed through my mind as I was greeted by the sight of the contemporary Ferrari California parked in a dark and windy Chester pub car park.
Ferrari California (photo: Roj Smith)
I was there for an evening photo shoot session with Welshot, the objective was to use off camera flash and photograph the Ferrari, kindly supplied by Welshot member Patrick Yates, along with a Jaguar Mark 2 that had also been brought along by fellow Welshotter Mike Castle, thank you both.
Jaguar Mark 2 (photo: Roj Smith)
Meeting at The Days hotel, Chester, Lee assigned each of us into groups and we headed out into the cold, dark night. I quickly realised that the most important piece of photographic equipment to have is not an ultra fast prime lens or a three axis imaged stabilised zoom but a rather more modestly priced warm hat; sadly mine was sitting at home and making no useful contribution to the evening. But minor things like cold and hypothermia soon become insignificant when you’re having fun taking photographs and talking to fellow Welshotters whose enthusiasm and friendliness is ample compensation for the inclement weather.
The group leaders quickly set about getting the lighting stands, brollies and flashes set up and the cars positioned at the angle to give the most pleasing images. After a few test shots it was decided that shooting with the triggers wasn’t working so we switched over to using one or two second exposures and manually firing all the flashes. As the shutter would be open so long there wasn’t a problem with not catching the flash as it’s so much shorter comparatively. The ambient light levels were very low so this also wasn’t a problem for the long exposure. Focussing proved a bit tricky as it was so dark but people helped each other by shining torches on the cars so focus could be obtained before the shots were taken.
Lighting the Jag (photo: Gill McGowan)
Eventually everyone switched around and got shots of both cars. I think it was at this point I realised that the second most important piece of photographic equipment to have is a warm pair of gloves; yes, mine were with my hat, at home, not keeping me warm at all. Not to worry though as by now the food was ready and we could head back inside to eat and discuss how we got on.
After the food we had something of a departure from the usual Welshot proceedings in the form of an image critique session led by Welshot team leader Simon Watkinson. Welshot attendees had the opportunity to submit a couple of images that were then discussed by everyone. I found this very interesting, hearing what people think about images is always worthwhile, even if you don’t always agree with them. I think it’s quite difficult when you’ve taken a photograph yourself to be completely objective about it, you remember the problems you had taking the shot, or a myriad of other factors that mean you don’t look at the image with the same detachment that another observer might have.
So, a bit of everything from this evening, fast cars and constructive image critique. Life moves pretty fast at a Welshot evening.
Hi. I’m Kev. An enthusiast photographer and Welshot member currently living in Stockport.
I went to my first Welshot event almost a year and a half ago and I’ve been asked to talk about a recent Welshot Workshop [try saying that fast three times!] I attended on Sunday 17th March 2013.
The Workshop in question was “Documentary, Reportage and Street Photography with Mark Scholey”.
The schedule for the day was to start with a lecture over coffee and pastries at the Ramada Hotel in Salford Quays, before heading into Manchester city centre to put into practice the various techniques Mark had explained to us.
At Lunch time we would get together and watch the St Patrick’s Day Parade. After that, Mark would set us a challenge and send us back out on the street. Finally we all met up again at Albert Square and caught the tram back to the Salford Quays. At the Ramada we would warm ourselves with more coffee and tea while Mark reviewed a couple of our images.
Unfortunately the day didn’t start too well for me, as I found Public Transport almost non-existent early Sunday morning, and eventually arrived at the hotel 5 minutes late. By then everyone was getting stuck into the coffee and muffins, but luckily Mark’s lecture hadn’t started.
I think there were about a dozen of us taking part, plus Mark, Eifion and (of course) Lee. We began by each saying what we hoped to achieve from the day. Several members of the group were predominantly landscape photographers, so this whole field was completely new to them. I have done a fair bit of street photography, documentary and photographs of strangers, but I was hoping to learn new techniques that may give better results.
Mark then gave us a short talk on what to look out for when taking street photographs and illustrated this with some of his shots. He then gave examples of how aperture choice would effect depth of field for both crop and full frame sensors.
One of his suggested techniques was to manually set focus at a fixed distance. This meant I could then concentrate on the composition of the image and because of the aperture I had chosen I wouldn’t need to worry so about achieving auto-focus lock before taking the shot.
After this talk we all left the hotel and took the tram over to Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester.
We now had the opportunity to wander around the city and try out the various techniques we had seen ourselves. Mark would stay at Piccadilly Gardens, so we could always return to ask questions if there was anything we weren’t sure about, or wasn’t working as we had expected.
One of the things Mark had suggested we look out for was juxtapositions – perhaps between signs and peoples actions. So this is how I ended up hanging around a well known high street chemists, with camera in hand waiting for people to walk through the doorway.
This isn’t the best shot I’ve ever taken (by a long way). But after standing outside the doorway, camera in hand, for over 10 minutes I was starting to get funny looks from the staff and the customers were starting to avoid that exit.
I moved on and continued around the city, trying my new technique of having the focus locked and taking a snap when someone moved into range. After a while I circled back to Piccadilly Gardens where we all met up for a quick chat on how we were getting on (and any problems encountered). We then all set off together to take photographs of the St Patrick’s Day Parade.
Unfortunately I found that I wasn’t very well equipped to take shots of the Parade. I was using a Fujifilm X100, which is a great little camera for taking street shots without being too conspicuous, but has a fixed 35mm (equiv.) lens. The marchers in the parade were all sticking to the other side of the road and I wasn’t getting any close up shots – unlike the photographers who were (much more sensibly) using DSLRs and longer lenses.
I left the rest of the group behind and ducked through the barrier, across the road and then shot the marchers from a much closer position.
We were very lucky and the weather had been dry all day (something of a rarity I understand for Welshot events), but it was very cold. Once we had our fill of shooting the parade we met up at a coffee shop to warm us up. This is where I managed to get my favourite shot of the day.
This was also when everything started to come together. I was shooting with a small aperture giving a larger depth of field with manual focus fixed at a set distance and managed to get a shot showing the juxtaposition between the poster showing the coffee shops poster of this being a place to have fun together with friends, and the reality of it being used by someone on their own who is lost in his thoughts.
Once we had finished our drink Mark set us our final challenge. We had a list of themes to shoot in and around Albert Square. Because it was St Patrick’s Day, Albert Square had a number of stalls selling food, drink, and Irish themed merchandise.
I decided to take photos on two themes – people on the phone and people eating while on the go (sometimes I was lucky enough to get both in the same shot).
Once this session was over it was time to catch the tram back to Salford Quays.
Taking pictures may have come to an end, but the workshop wasn’t finished. Back at the Ramada Hotel it was time to reflect on what we had learned. Each of us selected two images from the hundreds we had taken and these were displayed on a TV screen in the meeting room over cake and coffee.
When our images were on the TV Mark and the other delegates would talk about what they liked in the image and suggest other ideas we could consider next time we are out on the street.
It was an enjoyable and tiring day spent wandering the streets of Manchester with other like minded photographers. I had a great time, and it was good to finish off the experience seeing what other people had experienced through the day. While I had gone for candid shots, some other delegates had approached the exercises differently (for example, asking strangers if they would mind having their portrait taken). But I’m sure we all came away from the experience with both new skills and (perhaps more importantly) new ideas for our photography.
However even though the day finished, learning from the experience still isn’t over. We’ve also each agreed to upload a couple more shots taken during the exercises to the Welshot Forum for further discussion.
I hope some of the enjoyment I’ve had from the experience has come through in this blog post, and would recommend this sort of workshop to everyone. While we might go out to shoot landscapes, or book a session in a studio to shoot portraits, we spend most of our lives surrounded by strangers in our towns and cities. There are photo opportunities everywhere.
Hopefully I’ll see you at another Welshot Workshop soon.
Booked well in advance, almost 10 months in fact, the Welshot Imaging trip to Iceland was something I had earmarked in the calendar, in bold letters, coloured red, underlined, circled, and unmissable; an event that filled me with a nervous excitement.
A pre-departure get together in Chester a few weeks ahead of Christmas set the scene, Richie Roberts sharing with us his experiences from his September trip and we were inspired. Shopping trips for outdoor clothing occupied many at Christmas as we were preparing for sub-zero temperatures just below the Arctic Circle.
The arrival day dawned in February and 12 trusty Welshotters descended upon Iceland, the anticipation and expectation high, Andy Wilson’s words ringing in my ears as we boarded the Icelandic Air flight; “You’ll love it, it’s beautiful with some stunning landscapes and if you don’t get any cracking images you may as well pack in photography”…….no pressure then!
Touch down at Keflavik presented us with lead grey skies, slushy snow lining the runway and rain……hardly the artic conditions that I had been anticipating as Iceland was experiencing a warmer than usual climate this winter.
The drive from Keflavik to the island’s capital, Reykjavik was around 40 Km and Lee had spared us the public bus to transfer, instead booking us two private taxis. Travelling along the coastal highway in luxury, I was took in the volcanic scenery and the setting reminded me of a colder version of the coastal highway in Fuerteventura, small fishing villages and sweeping vistas of rock and scrub peppered the route.
Reykjavik arrived; it may be a city officially, but it has that large town feeling, cultural, steeped in tradition, safe, friendly with multi coloured chocolate box houses that adorned the streets, quaint, simple yet beautiful and adorable.
We stayed at the East end of the city at the Hotel Cabin, a simple yet comfortable accommodation, warm with great facilities and convenient for the sea front with Subway across the way for those not wanting to head into the centre. Lee had worked her magic with the hotel owners, rooms on the 6th floor facing Faxafloi bay and the Esja mountain range gave way to stunning panoramic views; I was hooked and fell in love with Iceland instantly.
No time to waste, in true Welshot tradition, we headed for the World famous hot dog stand down near the city centre to fill our bellies and drink in the atmosphere. Hunger abated, we headed to the waterfront to capture some night scenes, the biting wind reinforcing the decision months ago to come fully prepared for the weather.
Day two dawned dark and misty, Ymir our guide arriving bearing gifts in the form of fresh salmon on brown sweet breads….what an introduction! No time to waste, off on a tour of the Golden Circle we went, over the mountains, Geysir in the Haukadalur Valley the first stop.
Geysir didn’t disappoint, the main geyser, Strokkur erupting every 7 minutes or so, gushing high above us and although the skies were grey and dismal, the setting of this geological phenomenon and its smaller counterparts made this a stunning photographic experience, especially as our arrival was planned to coincide with the quieter period before the tourists arrived. Richie and Eifion were on hand to help with composition and exposure compensation advice, tricky light and backlit water presenting new challenges for some.
Onto Gulfoss, the White Falls, a spectacular three tiered waterfall full of atmosphere. No rainbow today, but the sun came out to play briefly and the ice laden walls of sheer rock lining this chasm reflected in the glowing light, spray and noise of tumbling, thundering, cascading water making this a memorable location. Help was on hand from John Arnold who gave a brief lesson on the benefits of using HDR in the contrasting light, the art of composition and the importance of detail, starting with the whole and closing in on smaller sections of the scene. Breath-taking!
Lunch under a rustic timber shelter in the Haukadalur Valley; breads, meats, cakes all prepared by Ymir and the highlight, traditional rotted shark meat washed down with Brenniven, Icelandic Schnapps. Pungent, almost an aroma of ammonia, the shark meat was a life time gourmet experience, but well worth trying…..and the Schnapps was just reward for the effort.
Last stop of the day, Pingvellir National Park; home of deep rift valleys and the junction of the European and American tectonic plates, a sense of impending activity ensues, the plates inching apart annually.
The National Park was stunning; clear icy waters in deep jagged ravines, waterfalls, not high, but wide, laden with brown sediment, tumbling into rock strewn pools and even with grey skies and failing light, we managed to get come cracking images.
Golden Circle may be on the commercial tourist route, but Welshot and our guide made this very much a personal experience and its one area that I’m sure to go back to again.
Day three; snowfall overnight saw white slippery roads just on the outskirts of Reykjavik as we headed East along the South of the island in our four-wheeled drive mini bus shod in studded winter tyres, our destination the majestic Seljalandsfoss, a 200 feet high spectacle of spuming water plunging earthwards over the former sea cliffs on the South coast.
Uniquely, we were able to walk and scramble behind the falls to photograph this raging plume of water, the focus being on protecting the gear from the spray and mists, some electing for HDR to cope with the high contrast of the dark overhanging cliff face and the skies beyond. All along this area, there were smaller falls with wide open, almost prairie like vistas, photogenic and unlike anything I have seen before.
Second stop, a little further along the road and an impromptu lesson for us all from Richie on the use of graduated filters and how to cope with shooting in the wet misty conditions for our second set of falls, Skogafoss. Opting for a different viewpoint, Richie led Paul Williams and me to an airy vantage point some three quarters the way up the hillside for a small group tuition. From here, we were looking down at the near 200 foot high broad crested falls, away from the spray and mist and with breath taking vistas along the coastline. A series of bracketed shots ensued whilst protecting the grad filters from rain.
After a brief lunch break and with rain falling steadily, flat grey skies persisting, we junked the plans to shoot on the black beach sands at Vik and headed instead slightly inland to the Solheimjokull, a retreating glacier.
This was a treat of the highest order, caverns, arches and bluffs of ice, interspersed with black grit detritus from the grinding, gouging action of the glacier as it still pushes its way down the valley under gravity. Photo opportunities were plentiful, be they scenic or photo journalistic, packs of would-be adventurers nervously heading onto the glacier, bedecked in crampons, tightly gripping their walking ices, hoping that they would be called upon to use them as their guides their progress as a mother hen would her chicks.
It might have been pouring with rain, but our spirits rode high as we headed to a secret hideaway that Ymir knew of, a bathing pool high up in a glacial river valley fed by the geothermal heated waters of Iceland’s most recent active volcano, Eyjafjallajökull, towering cliffs and rocky pillars, sentinels of basalt guarding the approach.
We crossed mountain rivers, some more successfully than others, but despite minor mishaps and early swims, the bathing pool was a sight to behold. Jumping in half way along, I was airborne when I heard the warning shouts of “that’s the deep end”…..too late as I plunge to the bottom of the pool, dark waters above, light pushing its way through and eventually surface to be greeted by howls of laughter.
We may not have been young, but we hollered like teenagers, excited at the discovery of this secret den, posing for photos, jumping as one out of the water, our Welsh flag flying proudly in the wind as we surveyed the snow-capped peaks around us, warmed by the 80°C water feeding the pool.
Our reward for braving the cold, words of congratulation from our guide and host along with shots of moonshine, vodka and schnapps, a winter warmer to take the edge off the chill.
Drunk on our experiences and slightly merry from the alcohol, we headed to a traditional farm for evening supper before heading back to base for a well-earned rest. However, John Arnold was at selflessly on hand, leading a mini-workshop on Lightroom which I attended and which transformed my workflow.
Day 4….sunny, warm and time to draw breath! A day around Reykjavik, in individuals, small groups and latterly as a whole, we explored the city, taking in a collective lunch at a renowned fish restaurant and then finishing the afternoon at the breath taking Hallgrímskirkja, the church which sits atop a brow overlooking the city, this magnificent architectural feature, basic and simple inside, colossal and prominent externally.
Views from the top of the church tower were a sight to behold, a 360° vista of wonderland; unique and varied buildings decked in their brightly painted corrugated metal cladding, snowy mountains abound, the setting sunlight glinting off the city airport to the West and the white capped waves of the Faxafloi Bay, whaling boats sitting in the harbour.
That night, the skies cleared and we encountered the strange phenomena of the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, Lee having worked all afternoon to secure the wonderful service of Ymir, our intrepid Viking guide.
Two locations offered plenty of time (about 4 hours in all) for us to take in this sight and capture some stunning images, Richie again sharing his knowledge with us all, Eifion and John Arnold assisting making sure everyone was getting their settings right and advising on composition etc.
Day 5, bonus day! Lee negotiated a trip with Ymir to the Snaesfellsnes Peninsula, a natural unspoilt area, off the beaten track.
First up, a trip into the lava fields, the route negotiating volcanic features and scrub, no visible track, just the experience of our guides. I sat alone for 15 minutes, unable to move, gazing into the beyond, lava plains and craters as far as the eye could see, a crumpled mountain range with its winter coat on the horizon. The beauty and splendour was paralysing; fitting a polarizing filter, I shook myself from the dream and proceeded to capture the scenes before me, venturing into a crater to explore and photograph the textures, colours and vegetation. Mind blowing!
Leaving here, we headed to a natural spring where we sampled the cold crystal clear water, laden with minerals, slightly effervescent. What an experience.
Travelling West, we passed beneath black spikey and folded cliffs, columns of hexagonally shaped basalt towering above us. These were unlike the sheer cliffs of the South coast; forged by tectonic action, alive with the spirits of Norse folklore.
Lunch at a Johanna’s farm, a favoured destination of legendary equine photographer Tim Flach. Corralled horses mixed with steep snow covered mountains of this coastal plain made for a fantastic photo opportunity, the owner also giving us free rein to explore the stable and yard, a host of subjects presenting themselves to be captured.
Onwards, following the sun towards the West trending yet further from Reykjavik, Arnarstapi our next destination. A small fishing port set down from coastal highway, hidden, a gem waiting to be discovered.
Our timing could not have been better, the fishing boats being unloaded, baskets of freshly caught fish making a fantastic set of images, whilst the mountains and holiday homes provided an equally attractive alternative to capture.
We walked along a coastal path, past inland lakes and ponds, quaint lodges on their shores, whilst to the other side, rugged sea cliffs with stacks, arches caves provided ample opportunity for some varied shots.
No time to waste, onwards then to capture a sunset, our first strong sunset in Iceland, fittingly on our last night. A beach, riddled with folklore of trolls and elves, and the wreck of an old British Trawler to set the unconscious mind racing and the creative juices flowing. Jet black pebbles, icy blue waters with crisp white surf, a backdrop of orange and yellow veins in an inky grey black sky…..paradise.
Supper was held at a secluded hotel, next to the Black Church where our guide would be married in September. Wooden floors, the walls decked in maritime and national treasures, what a scene for a feat of fish stew.
Leaving the hotel, we plodded back towards Reykjavik, our guide we suspect may have lingered at dinner to give us the opportunity of seeing the Lights again. And what a sight.
On the road through the Myrar region of this stunning peninsula, we were stopped in our tracks by the first showing of the Lights; as we descended from our bus, the Lights were visible to the eye, building in strength, dancing, gyrating for as far as the eye could see.
Directly overhead and arcing to our horizons, the Lights played green, red, purple and white, transforming, shape shifting over the plains and mountains, their brightness intense, the glow lighting up the surroundings. Stunning images were captured that night, tears were shed at the joy and splendour of this amazing natural sight; one can only imagine what the reaction was of the first Vikings that settled here on seeing this, fear perhaps, wonderment no doubt.
And so we eventually arrived back at base, a long but fruitful day, the end of a magnificent adventure.
Photo holiday, expedition, adventure, experience, challenge or opportunity, call it what you will, but for me it was life changing; I now see my photography in a new light, no longer shackled by a limited repertoire, I am having fun, my skills grown from five epic days of tuition, nurturing, encouragement not just from team leaders but from each and every one of my fellow Welshotters.
Thanks you to everyone involved, I will be back for more with this dynamic group.