Summer Sundays

Kia ora tatou:

A number of people have mentioned to me that they would like to spend some time brushing up on their technique and getting to grips with digital photography (or just building on what they already know).

For that reason, and since I will be in Christchurch most weekends this January working on weddings, I propose to hold a series of one-day seminars looking at some of these aspects. So here with, may I present(dah dah)

The Summer Sunday Workshops. They are as follows:

January 14. Digital basics. Venue: Castle Hill Basin. Time:0600 ( no, I am not joking)-1600

In this workshop we will look at issues of lens choice, exposure, use of the histogram, and implications of ISO. We will look at issues surrounding shooting in JPEG or raw and how to get the best possible file for later processing. We will look at how to analyse a scene, and what corrections to apply for a later working the file up for a finished print. Basic technique is something we all need to revisit from time to time, so there should be something here for everybody, whether you’re an absolute beginner or more advanced. You’ll need to bring lunch, your equipment, and a tripod.

January 21. Digital Darkroom Basics. Venue: to be advised (but somewhere in/near Christchurch). Time: 0900 to 1600.

The seminar follows on from the digital basics workshop. In this workshop I will talk about processing files (with particular reference to Lightroom), the difference between raw converters and how to prepare your images for either print or projection(there is a difference).We will look at issues such as sharpening, saving and archiving. I will attempt to demystify Lightroom and show you how to develop a workflow using it. If you have a laptop, bring it along. The seminar is aimed at all if you have find the darkroom (or should I say Lightroom) side of digital photography a fraught process.

January 28. Previsualisation: a creative approach to the landscape. Venue: Arthurs Pass. Time: 0500-1600

This workshop follows on from what we learned in the previous two (not that you need to have done the previous two to take part in this one). Following on from what we discussed in the previous two, I want to spend time working with you in the field, considering a live subject (if you can consider the landscape alive!),considering what it is he want to say about that landscape, identifying the features that you want to include, and thinking it through to the finished image, whether that be print or projection. In a previous post I talked about the concept of previsualisation; in this workshop I want to show you how to approach the subject and a methodology that will guarantee predictable results. You needed to bring equipment, lunch and money for coffee!

Workshops one and three are limited to 12 participants; workshop two is limited to 20.The fee foe each of the 3 days is $100.

These seminars would be great preparation for the upcoming April and July workshops in the Maniototo, which will focus on creativity and developing personal style.

If you would like to be involved, e-mail or phone me (021 227 3985)

Okuru is a wonderful place to do a photography workshop. It may have rained all week, but we still got out there and there were plenty of things to shoot even with the weather. In fact, the weather probably made for more dramatic shots. And Collyer House is a FANTASTIC place to stay!

Having a nice, small group was great. This made for more opportunities for personal feedback and consultation. It allowed for the schedule to be quite flexible, which was especially good given the weather.

We had an opportunity each evening to show a few slides. We could say what our intention was… what we were feeling when we took the shot and trying to capture. Both Tony and the group would then provide feedback.Each photographer in the group had a good eye, but of course, different points of view. Getting feedback with such different points of view is invaluable. You learn not just from the professional in the group, but from each person as well.

Sometimes you just need to learn to trust yourself more. I found that the experience of the week helped me further into this. You get to a point where it’s time to dig in a little further and the experience of the week helped push me down that path. They say that being your own coach can be a disservice. Immersing yourself into a group of people all of whom are also passionate about photography really helps take you to the next level. And this works for every person in the class.

Tony has a really great eye. He is really good at breaking a photo into pieces and providing feedback in the most constructive manner. And his teaching philosophy is superb – that he doesn’t have a class of ‘X’, but ‘X’ classes of one. What a refreshing approach! Another thing that I really find great about working with Tony is that he remembers where you are in your photography. So even in a class, he remembers that for each person and moves forward from that point for each person. What a gift! I’ve been to other classes and often the teacher is mostly interested in just showing his/her work, but you don’t really learn that much.

Tony is truly interested in each person learning and growing in their photography. Now that’s passionate!




Kia ora tatou:

Well the first Okuru workshop has been and gone. Four victims (I mean willing participants) made the big journey down to the back corner of New Zealand for some R&R-they thought!

The workshop had a number of aims:

  1. to help each of the participants find or clarify their personal photographic direction
  2. to introduce them to landscape photography, or to redefine their techniques and approaches
  3. to improve their mastery of digital photography
  4. to introduce them to the concept of producing a body of work
  5. to help them develop an idea flow

The course began with people arriving on the Sunday afternoon, and getting settled in. In the evening, we shared work and look to the days ahead. We talked about the idea of looking at in developing a personal approach to the landscape, rather than heading out, hoping something would put its hand up.

Each day began with a field trip, which usually lasted till lunchtime. There is so much to photograph around here that we didn’t have to go far. In fact, the first morning, we only went about a kilometer and a half.

We would then come back to base, eat a sumptuous lunch, and spend the early part of the afternoon editing and working through images shot in the morning. There was usually a workshop that discussed some aspect of digital post-production. Each of the participants then spent an hour or two with me talking about their own photographic directions, while the rest sat in front of the fire working. Then there was wine o’clock, usually before dinner and more talking about photography.

After we had eaten, there was a critique of each person’s five best photographs from the day. This usually lasted until well into the evening. On the last evening, each person put their 10 best photographs from the week into a slide show, which are shown to a number of locals.

It has to be said-the weather was awful! But we went out anyway. By day three, they were getting used to working in inclement conditions, and looking for the magic that can come and even on that dreadful day. Standing in the rain, they photographed mist shrouded hills, raging streams, the wacky whitebaiters’ village of Kwitchatown, the mournful Pioneer Cemetery at Jackson’s Bay, and the gigantic rocks at the Gates of Haast.

And did they produce some wonderful images!

We spent the last afternoon out at the amazing Ships Creek, where I successfully managed to drown my 1Ds MkII-does anybody want a very expensive bookmark?

There will be more of these workshops, because I cannot help feeling that there seems to be a real need for small intimate workshops like these, which help people develop their creativity and personal photographic direction.

But don’t take my word for it-read the articles contributed by Ian Walls below.

At this stage I am looking to do another one around mid-October. If you think it’s you, get in touch.

By the way, the group photo at the top of this post( note everyone wearing West Coast slippers) shows the five of us waiting for the slip to be cleared. In spite of rumours to the contrary, it wasn’t caused by Russell Hanson’s enthusiasm to get above his subjects! Actually, we went at worried about not being able to go any further. We were keen to get to the courier van on the other side of the slip, which contained that most precious of cargoes-more coffee beans!

Ka kite ano

Feedback from Okuru-Ian Walls

Driving home from Okuru I think I gained an appreciation of how you must have felt having had your eye operation. I was viewing the west coast landscape with a completely new set of eyes.

I made it to just before Ships Cove before I screeched to a halt to photograph some reflections I saw in the reeds. If it wasn’t the voice in my head that said “keep going you Plonker or you will never get home” I would have been still in Hokitika at midnight.

There was character in the landscape as I started north and I found it fascinating to watch it leech out as the sun got higher and higher. Still I was able to picture in my mind compositions and balances of texture and I even managed to imagine some colour.

I reviewed my email to you setting out my aims for the week. They were:
1. Gain a direction
2. Evaluate images to see the emotion I want to portray
3. Have an understanding of landscape photography

The Landscape Thing.

I said at one point that I viewed landscape as somewhere below half way up my scale of photograph interest. But I don’t thing I really had any idea what landscape photography is about. To me landscapes meant those cheesy images in the back of Woman’s Weekly done by the bloke with the red car. They were primarily suited to chocolate boxes for the purpose of making consumers more excited about the inside of the box than the out.

But I completely missed the passion. It came with a few viewings, but by looking at your “Country Lives” images and hear how you are making them, I realised that the photographs are not about autumn colours and sparkly water but about passion. I am also passionate about NZ as I think are most of us. If we weren’t no one would come home from their OE.

So I get it now but can I do it? Looking back at the images I made during the week I made some observations. The Monday morning photographs on the beach to me had a distinctly “Tony Bridge” feel about them (Tony’s Trash Can probably, but none the less…) and I actually felt that viewing them at the time. I think I have realized that my natural genre (is that the word??!!) are small view detail pictures of the world. In an almost “Freeman-ish” way I enjoy the beauty of the detail showing us the beauty of the big picture by implication. Having said that you showed me the grand view …. And I like it.
Images I made later in the week included some small view picture that felt emotive. One in particular made in the waves by Pottsy’s place was lots of foamy waves surrounding a lone rock. I saw it as a grand view picture with important detail – it is a passionate image and it is a “me” image.

I think I get landscape now – a tick for number 3.

How about number 2.

The image I am most pleased to have put forward for viewing was on Tuesday night and it was of an orangey-coloured tree branch with out of focus green bush behind. You politely made a few useful technical comments about leaves coming from outside of the frame. But your unsaid words yelled loudly “Ian why are you showing me this crap when I’m sure there are much more emotive images in your computer”. You were right and I knew it. At best the picture was about shape and colour……boring!!!!

I don’t need help evaluating passionate images. If it’s worth keeping it needs to yell at me. If it doesn’t yell it needs to head west to Russell’s trash can. I think I would rather delete blurry under-exposed passionate images than technically perfect boring junk.

So first is last – what about a direction from here….

When I first arrived Karen talked about the exhibitions she was involved in and a bit about Honours submissions. I was thinking that sort of thing could be a direction to go. But I was missing the point.

I had been thinking about the “body of work” concept since you blog on the subject but I didn’t really get it.

After you showed me your New Brighton stuff on your computer I was thinking, “How would this be better if it had been made into a book”. And the answer was that the only thing that would be better would (hopefully) be Tony’s bank balance ($14k might be nice). The truth is that the work doesn’t need to be published to be worthwhile.

Further than that I concluded that any photograph needs to be part of a “body of work” to be worthwhile. The classic photograph is the family snap and it exists and is important because it is part of a body of work documenting the particular family life. When the shoe box gets pulled out people are interested in the blurry shot of Aunty Jess when she was 9 and the wonderful arty shot of the rainbow in the same roll of film gets completely ignored. It isn’t relevant to the body of work.

So why make a body of work? I thought about that too on the way home. I realized that it isn’t any different to the model aeroplanes I used to take months to make. While making them I knew full well that in due course, not very long sometimes, they would be crashed and all that would remain is the bit of yellow tail I keep in the garage to remind me of the fun I had.

So the purpose of a photograph is to be part of a body of work. And the purpose of the body of work……… is the body of work. It doesn’t need to be exhibited or published to be worthwhile and the photographs certainly don’t need to win CPS competitions.

Back to the question – What is my direction? I have a feeling, now that I have my head around the body of work or project thing, that the aim I’m looking for will just come.

At the moment I’m letting a few documentary ideas bounce around and I think that the rivers thing has firmly taken plant. Best you go and check that Takashi is still in your bookcase!

So overall my three aims for the week are satisfied and I feel sorta liberated.


Another very important thing that I really enjoyed was sharing the growing experience with 3 like-minded people. Seeing their feeling and vision of the same things I had seen was fantastic.

Thank you Karen, Russell and Ann

When’s the next one Tony?


The Settlers Graves-Ian Walls

I would have to say that as we pulled up on the side of a boring piece of road, having passed wonderful trees, swamps and side roads to the beach, I did feel a degree of trepidation. I don’t think I was the only one.

When we walked into the bush I thought “Wow this is a special place”. But without the 2-cigarette speech I wouldn’t have had a clue what to do next. 4 cigarettes later( Ian doesn’t smoke-see the post on BlueprintX-Ed), I walked out to get my camera with some feelings defined and a bit of an idea on how to express them.

The feelings I had were twofold. Firstly I felt a joyful feeling that just for once nature had won against man. I suppose the fact that I had walked only 10 meters from a sealed highway probably means that nature hasn’t won but I do feel that in Westland there is a better equilibrium than in most parts of the planet. My second feeling was a sort of a respectful one. The fact that, after over 100 years, Nature has left some visible remains, suggests to me that there is a respect for the struggle that the settlers put up. It felt a very spiritual place.

How was I planning to express this? I had in mind an image where the green of the natural bush was overpowering the last remains of the graves that were still recognizable as graves. The Photoshop technocrat in me pictured a desaturated gravestone with bright green leaves or bush bursting through. Multiple layered images with clever blending modes and all that stuff.

When I went back into the bush the gravesite which I had wanted to use, and did in the end, was taken. That was actually a good thing in retrospect. I have learned not to go straight for the image I have in my head but to shift around it and let it grow. As I experimented with other ideas and collected pictures of plants to “grow” out of the grave I realized that the green bush and the B&W stones were already there – I didn’t need Photoshop to combine the thoughts.

When I got to the grave I wanted to use I saw the green and B&W could be combined in the detail and by using camera position to emphasise various things. I was also still looking for an angle to Photoshop greenery from.

As I was on my hand and knees, I looked up and saw the light thru the trees that looked sort of spiritual. I tried a few streaky blurry images by moving the camera with a slow shutter speed and then using the flash came to me as an idea. I had read an article about using second curtain flash and slow shutter speed and had played with it a bit. But I was only using a technique for the sake of the technique. Here was an application. I tried a dozen or so images and saw a few on my LCD which had potential.

I walked out of the bush feeling quietly confident that Id found what I was looking for.

Back at the computer I made 3 images that I think worked. There is a moody partially desaturated one from a low angle, a detail shot of the grave with the greens of the bush popped for emphasis and my streaky flash picture. I made my original idea of the growing bush and it didn’t really work. However that idea did work as it gave me a focus while the other more successful pictures grew around it.

That night I very much enjoyed the other course members take on the place.

Karen’s picture of the beauty in the decaying ironwork with the green of the bush in the background spoke to me of the respect for the settlers which I had felt.

Russell saw a wonderful story flowing across his image ending in a stark granite face of a headstone signifying the end of the settlement. I had walked away from that particular grave after seeing nothing.

Ann’s superbly composed image of the headstone with speckles of sun giving a spiritual presence said the same thing as my streaky one but in a much more subtle way. I also really liked her fern picture. She had been distracted from telling us the story by the beauty of the place….kind-a cool

All in all I found that a really satisfying exercise.

Looking back on this ramble there is part of me that says “What a pile of arty-farty garbage!!!”

However the emerging photographer in me now knows that without all the emotional stuff involved in making those 3 images, which I am proud of, would not have been possible.


1 Comment »

  1. Hi boys!a56699408af62ee8f085384059c07d52

    Comment by limewire — September 15, 2007 @ 1:37 pm

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