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I've just returned from another highly productive workshop in Tuscany. We were blessed with great weather all week, with misty mornings and colourful sunsets. We timed it just right this year with the fresh spring foliage and blossom erupting just as we arrived. As usual we concentrated on the area of Tuscany just south of Siena from our base in the beautiful Val d'Orcia.
Of course we took the classic views like the Belvedere at dawn, winding cypress tree-lined roads and the church at Montepulciano. However, on all my landscape workshops I like to spend at least one day searching for new locations. For one reason this helps my clients see how I find new compositions in the landscape and for another it means they don't go away with all the same images as the rest of my groups. This year we discovered a fantastic area of rolling hills which looked great in low angled sunlight at the end of the day. This region (shown below) will definitely become a regular location for future workshops!
Earlier last month I ran my Outer Hebrides landscape workshop on the Isles of Harris and Lewis. I don't normally run this workshop so early in the year....and I may not do so again! We had some very nice conditions and some good light during the first part of the trip, but later in the week some extremely stormy weather arrived which left us stranded on the islands a day longer than planned due to all the ferries being cancelled! Initially I was keen to capture some stormy seascapes, but I soon realised that this wasn't going to happen as the wind was too strong to stand up in never mind take a sharp photo! The ocean swell wasn't that big but the water was very turbulent, causing white foaming water to fill all the bays along the west coast, which is never great for coastal landscape photography. Nevertheless, we managed to take some really nice shots during our time on the islands.
We were kept very busy for the first few days as the light was great all day long. It was cold and we had many snow...
At the end of last month I ran a short coastal landscape workshop in Cornwall. One of the main aims with this workshop is to try to capture some big waves, that's why I run it in the winter months. However, you have to be very lucky for the dates to coincide with the tail end of a big storm, especially when the workshop is planned 18 months in advance! This time we got very lucky and were able to capture some great waves breaking over Longships Lighthouse, just off Land's End.
This time all my lighthouse images were taken using a Canon EOS 5D mkIII and the new EF100-400mm f4-5.6L II with EF1.4X II extender. I shot at 400 ISO, 1/500th sec @ f11 with the lens supported on a heavy Really Right Stuff Tripod with additional Long-lens support. The results are all pin sharp.
The beach at Porthcurno provided an interesting view at low tide, although it was necessary to climb into some fairly precarious positions in search of a good foreground!
I was amazed that this image came out sharp,...
In the final installment from my recent workshops in Greece and Bulgaria, these are the famous Dalmatian Pelicans of Lake Kerkini in Greece. This is one of my favourite workshops and certainly always one of the most productive. This year I shot around 15,000 images, although these have been edited back to around 100 keepers.
The conditions this year were challenging to say the least. Although the weather itself was good while we were there, previously they had an awful lot of rain which had caused the water level in the lake to rise extremely high, covering the banks and making it difficult to shoot from the places we normally do. It also made the birds quite nervous, as they were unfamiliar with the new shoreline. We worked around this problem as best we could and once we'd been there for a while the pelicans became more tolerant and approached closely. We were, however, unable to do as much photography with wide-angle lenses as we normally would.
Over the course of the two workshops we had a very nice mix of weather conditions, although the lake was only...
Each of my two Bulgaria and Greece wildlife and landscape workshops began with a session photographing the nutcrackers shown in my previous diary entry. After that we headed towards Bulgaria's southern border to an area of spectacular landscape known as the Sand Pyramids. This is a large wild area with incredible sandstone formations, gorges, canyons and a backdrop of splendid snow capped mountains. Given good light this is paradise for a landscape photographer!
Access to the best viewpoints can only be acheived on foot, but the area is criss-crossed by paths made by livestock and shepherds. On the first workshop we captured a very colourful sunrise and during the second workshop we were very lucky to have clear sharp light for some time. Broken cloud works best, with areas lit by the sun contrasting against those still in shadow.
On the second workshop we had fresh snow, as well as a reasonable sunrise. This particualr viewpoint requires a very wide-angle lens...and a head for heights!
On the final day of the second workshop some of us went exploring. After...
The diaries from my recent workshops in Bulgaria and Greece will be split into three reports, beginning with the time we spent with the fabulous Nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes). These brilliant birds are a member of the crow family (corvids) are found in Bulgaria's high altitude coniferous forests. During the winter months they form small groups and when the weather is cold and hostile (as it was during our visit) they readily come to a handout of nuts. In their haste to gather as much food as possible they squabble like mad and a strong pecking order quickly becomes apparent!
We only spent a short time with these birds (two one-hour sessions), but that was sufficient to capture a number of great behavioural images of them hopping, bouncing and sliding around in the fresh snow. The temperatures were well below freezing, as we were at an altitude of over 2000m and it was snowing for most of the time we were photographing.
As I had six other photographers with me I used only my 600mm lens, which allowed me to work from behind them without getting in the way. At such...