Workshops: Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What can I expect to learn?

A. I’ll help you to improve your landscape photography skills by shooting in manual mode. Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with your camera’s settings; you will be by the end of the workshop! We’ll discuss the best times of day and times of year for landscape photography. I’ll show you how to capture images that convey a sense of depth and that the eye can easily navigate. Learning what to exclude from a photograph is as important as knowing what to include. If the light is flat, we’ll look beyond shooting the ‘big picture’ and focus on capturing more intimate landscapes; this style of photography can be hugely rewarding as it encourages you to pay closer attention to the details around you and capture unique images. I’ll provide one-to-one tuition in the field and critique sessions which will be delivered in a positive way with the intention of inspiring you, as opposed to denting your confidence! You will receive notes summarising the key learning objectives and tutorials will also be delivered on the multi-day workshops. The emphasis will be on ‘getting it right’ in camera as opposed to in post-production.

Q. What photographic equipment should I bring?

A. Photographic equipment is a personal choice dependent on budget and experience, however the following is recommended. Please don’t rush out and spend a small fortune on new equipment specifically for one of my workshops! You might find that what you learn on a workshop influences what equipment you want to invest in afterwards.

Camera

I don’t mind whether you’re shooting with a basic camera or a high end full frame sensor DSLR. Both will produce decent results in the hands of a good photographer. Try to get to know your camera’s layout and menu structure before the workshop and bring the camera manual with you.

Camera bag

I recommend using a rucksack, as opposed to a shoulder bag, for comfort when walking. Ensure the contents are protected from the elements, e.g. with a rucksack cover.

Tripod

A good tripod is essential if you are serious about landscape photography. It allows you to carefully consider your composition and use narrow apertures and corresponding slow shutter speeds, resulting in well-composed, sharp images. Ideally, a tripod needs to be light enough to carry over long distances but sturdy enough to avoid camera shake. A carbon fibre tripod is an excellent investment if you have the budget, but essentially has the same functions as less expensive (but heavier) aluminium tripods. Don’t forget to bring an allen key in case any part of your tripod becomes loose during the workshop.

Lenses

This is a matter of personal preference. For landscape photography, I use two zoom lenses covering the following focal lengths: 24-70mm and 70-200mm. The quality of most zoom lenses nowadays is superb and they are more versatile to work with than prime (fixed focal length) lenses. Bear in mind that if you are using a crop sensor camera, these focal lengths will appear more ‘zoomed in’ than on a full frame sensor DSLR. I recommend that you avoid shooting with an ultra wide angle lens to avoid the foreground losing its impact in your landscape images.

Filters

Don’t dismiss filters as ‘fake’. Their purpose is to help the camera to capture what the human eyes sees. A selection of high quality filters are a worthwhile investment. There is little point in spending a significant sum of money on camera equipment, only to screw a cheap filter on to the front of the lens!

I have a UV filter permanently attached to the front of all of my lenses, primarily to protect the lens glass from damage. I recommend using a polarising filter to enhance rainbows and reduce reflections on water surfaces. I also use a selection of neutral density filters, especially graduated neutral density filters, to control contrast, e.g. to darken the sky. However, many filters can be replicated in Lightroom and Photoshop and, although it is good practice to ‘get it right’ in camera, you might prefer to add filters in post-production if you’re on a budget (the money could be spent on another piece of kit instead).

Remote/cable release

This is an inexpensive piece of kit but essential for avoiding camera shake, even when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

Spirit level

A hot shoe spirit level is another inexpensive piece of kit but is useful for ensuring your horizon is level. Of course, you can straighten your horizon in post-production but, for the sake of a few pounds, it’s probably worthwhile getting into good habits and ‘getting it right’ in camera.

Backup and storage

Ensure that you bring sufficient memory and have a means of backing up your images. Bringing your own laptop will enable you to process the images you capture during the workshop and will facilitate critique sessions.

Spare batteries

Bring at least one spare battery and remember to pack your charger if you’re attending a multi-day workshop.

Lens cloth

This is useful for removing spots of rain. A face towel is also useful for drying your camera and lenses after shooting in the rain.

Diffuser

A collapsible diffuser is extremely useful for removing harsh shadows from ‘detailed shots’ if shooting when the sun is out.

Q. What personal equipment should I bring?

A. There will be a limited amount of luggage space in the vehicle so try to pack as lightly as possible without compromising on safety and comfort. The key is to stay warm and dry under a variety of weather conditions.

The following is a good starting point:

Walking boots
Gaiters
Spare socks
Walking pole
Waterproof trousers
Waterproof jacket
Fleece
Casual clothes for evening wear
Hat for sun protection and warmth
Gloves (even in summer!)
Midge head net
Head torch with spare batteries
Sunscreen
Sunglasses
Toiletries
Small flask
Drinks container, e.g. 1 litre water bottle
Binoculars
Mobile phone and charger
Laptop
Book
Notepad and pen

Q. How fit do I need to be?

A. Walking will be generally straightforward over rough ground and good paths, with no major ascents. A walking pole can be helpful if crossing rough terrain. There will be no major ascents on any of the workshops.

The days will be fairly leisurely and we will typically spend up to six hours outdoors, depending on the weather and light.

The Isle of Harris workshop involves a two and a half hour crossing between Ullapool and Stornoway on a large ferry. Access from the vehicle deck to the viewing lounge, cafeteria etc. is via a steep flight of steps.

The North Coast 500 workshop involves, as the name suggests, 500 miles of driving. Many of the roads are single track and twisty and therefore this workshop is not suitable for anyone particularly prone to travel sickness.

Q. What insurance do I need?

A. It is advised that you are insured against medical and personal accident risks. It is recommended that this includes cover for the activities to be undertaken during the trip. It is also recommended that you take out cover for cancellation, curtailment and baggage.

Q. How do I book?

A. For the Fife Coast, Isle of Harris and North Coast 500 workshops, please complete the Workshop Booking Form and provide a 25% deposit. For the Black Isle workshop and any bespoke one-to-one packages, please contact me to discuss my availability before completing a Workshop Booking Form and providing upfront payment. Before booking any workshop, it is essential that you read the Terms and Conditions shown on the Workshop Booking Form. Please contact me if you have any doubts about your suitability for a particular workshop.

Karen Thorburn
Tel: +44 (0)7761985752
Email: karen@karenthorburn.com
© Karen Thorburn