GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: Photography

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Nature Photography

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In 1972 while traveling through the Panama canal I bought my first real camera, a Praktica Super TL, one of the first SLRs. By today's standards that thing was a clunky shoe box with a coke bottle for a lens. I only bought it to record my travels but by the time I reached London a couple of weeks later I was hooked on photography, and have been ever since.

That's 47 years and counting. Yikes, nearly half a century of making images.

That said, most of the photos I've taken in that time have been lost to antiquity, almost all of the images featured on this site were taken in the last 20+ years.

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NOTE: I love teaching photography but since we hit the road in 2001 it has not been possible for me to run workshops. I've left this blurb in place because maybe, just maybe, now that we've dropped anchor in Central Queensland there might be an opportunity to run workshops again.

The MONOscapes workshops are held in the Blue Mountains over three days.

There is an introduction night a week or so before the workshop, followed by theory and practical work at Jembi-Rinjah lodge and in the Grand Canyon.

The following is a rough outline of the workshop. Note that items and dates may change. A basic knowledge of photography is required for this course.

The Saturday session takes place at Jembi-Rinjah lodge, they have a comfortable conference room and can provide meals. After dinner we can relax around the conversation pit (and hopefully a nice fire) with BYO drinks. During the day we can all review and discuss your portfolio if you like. If that is too intimidating I can review your images privately.

Sunday we walk into the canyon, this is a short but steep walk, you don't have to be a gung-ho bushwalker but a little fitness wouldn't go astray. You will be expected to be able to equip yourself for a short one-day walk into the canyon. As this walk will be held regardless of the weather (well maybe not regardless, but a little rain won't stop us) you should have enough equipment to be comfortable in bad conditions. Don't forget lunch and drinking water. On our return we get cleaned up, then adjourn to the Ivanhoe pub for dinner and a night of general discussion.

We will be staying at the Blackheath Caravan park in their on-site cabins, or you can arrange you own. The workshop starts on Saturday morning at the Jembi-Rinjah lodge.

How to get there
Blackheath is about four hours drive from Canberra and two hours from Sydney. Jembi-Rinjah lodge is 5 minutes drive down the Evans Lookout road, which turns off just before Blackheath.

Course outline

One night the week before
Introduction night
Pick up course notes
Discuss what to bring and how to get there

Theory day at the Jembi-Rinjah lodge.

Subjects covered will include the following but we can follow other paths according to the groups interests.

  • Exposure and contrast control
  • Black & white vs colour
  • Equipment, both photographic and non-photographic
  • Working in the field
  • Reciprocity failure
  • Wind
  • Light
  • The fine art world
  • Presenting your work

We have dinner at the lodge, feed the birds (bring a camera) then relax around the fire with BYO drinks.

Bring along your folio and we can discuss your work.

Walk into the Grand Canyon.

We spend the day amongst the ferns, waterfalls, rustic stone stairways and slot canyons.

In the evening we eat at the Ivanhoe pub then stay there to discuss photography or whatever crops up.

Walk and photograph along the "Valley of the Waters" track until we reach the Empress Falls, a beautiful waterfall with ample opportunity for photography in the small cascades, pools etc.

Lunch at the "Conservation Hut".

The last workshop

In March eight of us booked into our accomodation at Blackheath. The cabins were spartan but comfy and anyway, as I said to everyone, if you're going to get into landscape photography you'll have to get used to sleeping under rocks, in caves and just about anywhere else. No normal accomodation park could be less comfortable.

Saturday saw us all at the Jembi Rinjah lodge for a day of theory. The lodge has a very nice conference room...

We settle in for a day of discussion about such things as the Zone system, use of large format cameras, bushwalking. It's worth noting that, although I mainly use a large format camera and unashamedly push them as an appropriate tools for landscape photography, you do not need to have one or even intend buying one to learn at this workshop. Of the seven attendees this course only one person is considering moving to large format.

We had morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea at the lodge then took a break to freshen up and allow those who arrived on Saturday to book in.

On returning to the lodge we spent a couple of hours reviewing student's portfolios. I must say the standard was very high with several shots standing out as drop-down winners. I found myself saying many times that a shot should have been much tighter and I think all agreed that there is a real place for telephoto lenses in landscape photography.

At eight we adjourned for dinner at the Ivanhoe pub in Blackheath. The Ivanhoe has simple pub-style meals with a restaurant atmosphere. The best of both worlds for my money with ample time to discuss various aspects of photography.

Sunday saw us in The Grand Canyon. It's an easy walk down to a beautiful place. The canyon is only a couple of hundred yards long but is just bursting with interesting waterfalls, ferns, rock formations etc. We spent most of the day in the canyon, then returned at our individual paces to the car park. I was the last up, huffing and puffing like a bagpipe player. After a quick heart massage I was ready for the pub. We drove back to the Ivanhoe for a well earned drink in the beer garden.

Returning to the caravan park we cleaned up the drove back to the pub for dinner. We ordered and sat at our table. The piano was mercifully quiet and is was easy to chat about, well everything really, but largely photography. Things were starting to wind down when the piano burst into life under the control of someone who made last night's entertainer sound like Beethoven. Our new torturer was a sad old man who has lost his wife, he just wanted to have a purpose in life and decided that entertaining the Ivanhoe guests would be that purpose. Poor old bugger. He told Fiona she was beautiful, she didn't know what to say so asked him to play us a tune. We listened for as long as we could bear it then, towards the end, took our leave.

On Monday we made an early start, arrived at the Conservation hut at Wentworth Falls and set off along the "Valley of the Waters" track. Before long we encountered the Empress Falls.

What a great spot. We were early enough to have a hour or so photography in the diffuse light before the sun crept into the canyon.

Zheng lined his Fuji 690 up on some interesting textures near the top of the falls...

while most of us photographed at the bottom. As the sun reached into the canyon we left and made our way along the track. We found several interesting places but it wasn't until we came across a really neat grotto that everyone decided to break out the camera gear.

The grotto had a small waterfall at the rear that emptied into a pool. Here we see Zheng and Ali photographing the waterfall and pool while Alan and Don appear to have found something interesting on the moss-covered wall.

Meanwhile Jennifer was practicing a new camera stabilisation method...

"Hmmm... this is harder than I figured"

"Ahh...that's better"

By this time both Alan and Don were convinced that spot meters were the way to go. Here we see Alan taking a reading through the entrance of the grotto.

We continued along the track without seeing any more shots and arrived back at the Conservation Hut for lunch.

The hut is a very pleasant place, it's set amongst the trees with tables on a wide veranda and views over the valley. We spent an hour or so eating and chatting then said our goodbyes.

All-in-all everyone enjoyed the weekend and learned enough to justify the cost of attending the workshop.

I've done a lot of writing over the years, everything from mainframe computer user manuals to Photoshop tutorials for camera magazines. I'm starting to format much of it and posting in my writing section.

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