Winter is meant to be a time for rest and relaxation for us but as yet this year we have not stopped and this last week I embarked on an unexpected foray into the world of teaching photography.
If you have been following me on either Twitter or Facebook you may have seen that I was approached a few weeks ago to give an individual some photography lessons. It was somewhat of a surprise e-mail to receive, but it was an enquiry from a guy who is from Buenos Aries in Argentina who was spending winter in Debrecen and wanted to spend some time improving his photography skills but was struggling to find lessons in a language other than Hungarian. We arranged to meet up in Debrecen for a beer over lunch to see if we could formulate a plan that would work for both of us as I live 100km from Debrecen.
Martin described himself as a casual photographer when we met who wanted to be able to take better photographs with his shiny new Canon 60d (which proved to be a fantastic camera), much like most people he said he had read countless books and watched endless hours of videos but much prefers to learn by doing things rather than reading about them.
Now my camera goes with me pretty much everywhere I go, much to the chagrin of my wife, and I love taking pictures but I have never had any formal training and have never really formulated what I know and how I work into a process. So after I agreed to spend sometime with Martin and show him some ideas that maybe able to help him in getting a little more out of the camera my thoughts very quickly entered the realm of “what on earth have I done”!
The weather over here in Hungary at this time of year is a little unpredictable which made formulating a plan really difficult, so I had opted to try and do a few product type shots like the marbles above to try and show the links between shutter speed, aperture values (F-Stops) and ISO settings and how taking control of the yourself rather than allowing a camera to make decisions opens up a whole new avenue of photography and really is not as complicated as it sounds.
So the morning of Martins first lesson arrived and I had a fairly restless weekend trying to put together in my own mind what I do and how I do it. The weather had seemed to take a turn for the better and the skies were amazing, lots of textures and shades and a really interesting light which meant we maybe able to head out in the afternoon, unfortunately the moment Martin arrived in the village it started to rain and the skies darkened considerably. After a brief coffee we started taking some simple product shots with some off camera lighting and it was immediately obvious that teaching someone something that you do on auto-pilot is really difficult. Having said that we quickly worked out a way to communicate ideas and got some pretty cool work done and Martin seemed really happy with what he was learning.
The day then took on a bit of a twist that I had not planned but proved to be extremely productive, we started shooting some photographs in very testing conditions, initially with our log burner, playing with fire, which is always fun and then out at our local Pub at Pusztakettos (above). It really was about exploring the limits of how much light a camera can capture and how to maximise it and how much you can recover in post processing. We had a great discussion about moving to capturing images in RAW format rather than JPEG, essentially JPEG processes your picture for you and then discards a host of information that it does not think is important (hence the compression), unfortunately that means when you are working in testing conditions you have no way of getting back some of the dynamic range if you allow the camera to process into JPEG.
The teaching experience really was not what I expected and I doubt it was for Martin either however I think we both went away from lesson one with a little bit of something that we did not have before. My “student” is heading to France Skiing this week and is really enthused about getting some better shots from his camera on a consistent basis. I am looking forward to catching up with him when he returns and we are hoping for a little snow to head out to an old Communist Era Military airfield not too far from home and then meeting up with my wife and his girlfriend at a local thermal spa. It also spurred me on to get out and start taking some more pictures as I seem to have lost my enthusiasm over the last few weeks!
On a slightly different note we are hoping to head into Budapest one day next week for a wee sample of the Christmas market and maybe even some Ice Skating in the grounds of Vajdahunyad Castle, I am sure there will be plenty of pictures to come!