What I Learned at the Getaway Travel & Wildlife Photography Workshop

Gareth and I attended the Getaway Travel and Wildlife Photography Workshop hosted by Dylan Kotze this past Saturday. The workshop was 4 hours long and we were presented with such a wealth of information, tips and tricks that I almost feel like I should now be certified as an Advanced Beginner Photographer! Not only did Dylan fill the session with highly interesting and informative examples, but he also kept it fun and light-hearted enough that I do not regret offering up a whole Saturday, and Spring Day nonetheless, for the workshop. 
The three basic principles of exposure – aperture, shutter speed and ISO – had baffled me up till now, but now suddenly it all makes perfect, logical, sense: 
Aperture is basically the size of the hole through which the picture is taken. The larger the number, or F-stop (F/16 for example), the smaller the hole. The aperture is used to control the depth of field, which is a fancy way of saying it determines what is in focus. The whole picture is in focus when a large F-stop is used, while a smaller F-stop (large hole) creates a blur around the focal point. 
Shutter speed controls the amount of time the shutter is open, allowing light to come in. A slow shutter speed, anything from 10 seconds to 2500 seconds and more, can be used to create the misty water effect or photos with star trails. Faster shutter speeds, 1/1600 seconds, are used to capture animals or birds in flight. 
Image courtesy of myphotoaccessory.com

 

Image courtesy of digitalcameraworld.com
ISO controls the camera sensor’s sensitivity to light. A lower ISO, say 100, gives a darker photo, while a higher ISO, 1600, creates a much lighter photo. This can be varied during low light conditions, but unfortunately causes much noise and graininess. Dylan advised to play around with our own cameras to see which ISO setting works best. 
Next under discussion were histograms (a graphical representation of a picture’s exposure), sensor size (DX vs. FX, ie. small frame vs. full frame), lenses (wide angle, standard, zoom and macro), flashes and speed lights, filters (polarisers, neutral density filters) and tripods. 
We looked at the different types of camera modes: 
  • Tv – Shutter priority – you decide on the shutter speed and is used for taking pictures of subjects in motion. 
  • Av – Aperture priority – you choose the F-stop and the camera selects the most appropriate shutter speed. 
  • Manual – to be used at night time when a flash is needed. 
  • Metering – determines the light exposure and options include centre-weighted, spot, partial and evaluative (default). 
The next section was all about how to create better images, most importantly what to keep in mind during image composition (the rule of thirds, graphical lines and shapes that lead the eye, texture, colour and depth, negative space and working your subject) and how to use the quality and direction of light to the best advantage. 
Image courtesy of photography101.org
 Although Dylan stressed the importance of getting it right in-camera first, the workshop closed off with a quick guide to digital image editing (using either Photoshop or Lightroom), which can include the following 8 steps:
  • Auto adjust 
  • Cropping 
  • Colour balance 
  • Exposure and brightness 
  • Contrast 
  • Saturation 
  • Spot removal 
  • Sharpening 
I normally hesitate to use the word “inspirational”, but when I walked out of this workshop I wanted to do nothing more than go out and put my newfound knowledge to the test. Dylan’s most important piece of advice was to engage with your surroundings – take notice of the details in everyday life and interact with the world. Keep in mind that good photographers don’t take great pictures, they make them.
Image seen at itexpert.net

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