Workshops, Spoonbills and P9

Another great Wildlife Photography Workshop yesterday at RSPB Exe Estuary with some lovely folk, some of whom were making it their second/third visit having already completed previous workshops in the series.

Big thanks to all the attendees past and present over the past 18 months who have brought so much to the table. And not forgetting all the wonderful RSPB volunteers who opened up the ‘Lookout’ for us and served teas and coffees…always with a smile.

Yesterday’s workshop was the Advanced session which, I have to say, generated much discussion and interaction from all involved. For me personally one of the highlights of the day was listening to the discussion about what makes a good photograph. The purpose of this little exercise is to get folk to step outside their personal comfort zone and share opinions about what they consider are the key points that make one image better than another. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially as we all tend to be a little jealous of our own work. But, and it’s a big but, if we try to see our work as others might see it then that has to be a good thing and an integral part of the journey. It’s so very easy to get sucked into the whirlpool of our own ego that we often forget what others may think of our hard-won final images.

Ah! yes, ‘But…’ I hear you scream,‘…I take photos for my own pleasure and I’m not bothered what other people think.’ which raises a question in my mind: Suppose you asked a panel made up of friends and others to review your images and the consensus was, ‘They’re OK but not really that good. In fact, overall, we don’t think they’re up to much. They’re just pretty pictures with quite a few a bit blurry and some a bit confusing.’ How would you feel? Unless you’ve got a heart of ice I reckon that you’d be devasted.

So here’s the thing…always try to think how others might see your work. Yes, of course, we’re never going to please all the people all of the time but I would suggest that it’s a good starting point to see your work as others might. After all, some images will always be liked by most people – photographers or not. My advice? Dump your ego, and envision the final image before you take the shot and check live view to see it as others might. It’s worth a go. What’ve we got to lose? And more importantly, what will we gain?

Spoonbills? Well, I arrived at the hide on Sunday about 7am ready for a 10am start!!! and the rain was hammering down with visibility quite poor. I always try to arrive early because I know that there’ll be a few birds hunkered down regardless of tide conditions. And early morning light is always a joy. Except on this occasion… But the Spoonbills were there, as anticipated, but were a long way off in really poor light. So it was simply a case of setting my exposure triangle correctly and firing off a few test shots, making a few tweaks and checking live view with the histogram visible… I never ‘spray and pray’. By the time the workshop started the weather lifted and we had some really good light. More importantly, some really good conversations.

Oh yes! P9…P9 is a curlew with a tracker fitted on its back. Why P9? Its yellow ID tag on its leg is ‘P9’. Amazing what you see through the ‘Looking Glass’

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