A weekend in Dorset.

1

Where has this week gone? This time last week I was down in Dorset with Paul Reiffer, Vic and a number of other photographers standing on a cliff overlooking Durdle Door in Dorset.

I had driven down on the Thursday night in thick fog, which reduced me to 20mph in places, and doing battle with closed road – yes, no less than four road closures and diversions on the major roads from Northamptonshire to Dorset. It turned a leisurely 3 hour run into a little over six hours. Never mind, the planned snooze before dawn was forgotten about and I headed over to capture a shot of the famous Portland Bill lighthouse just before the sun rose above the horizon. I also headed over to Pulpit Rock, but the sky was not going to play ball and I gave up and headed over to the meeting point for the workshop.

We met Paul at the Sailing Academy and following the usual introductions Paul took us through the fundamentals of how a camera and lens work, the all-important triangle which would need to balance over the weekend and more. I knew a lot of this from previous workshops with Paul, but he still managed to have me talking notes with some handy new bits of information – the best being a new way of looking at the depth of field for landscapes and one that I would put to the test and come to use the whole weekend.

Following our first classroom session, we headed over to check into the hotel and then out to Durdle Door for a sunset shoot. The weather was not playing ball and we decided to ditch the beach and head over the cliffs to a nice vantage point that overlooks the beach towards the famous arch. It really does help to have a professional who knows the best shooting spots and Paul was spot on this evening. My chosen view was a look along the beach with the arch set off to the left of the frame and taking in what was becoming a fairly interesting sky. Although fairly featureless, I was hoping for a somewhat serene image from this location.

Back at the hotel, the group of photographers on the workshop settled down for dinner in the restaurant and we swapped successes and failures from the day and we all got to know each other a little more. Then, early to bed because the following morning was going to be another early start. I’d been on go for nearly 48 hours, so I alone was ready for some sleep.

3Saturday morning had us heading over to Durdle Door again and squinting through the patchy fog at times. The fog lifted when we got to the location and parking up the cars, we could see some stars in the sky. This was looking promising. On the cliff top we gathered around for a quick briefing from Paul and some recommendations. Three of us decided to capture the view overlooking Man O’War Cove looking towards Man O’War Beach. The rest of the group headed up onto the cliffs again with Paul and this was a lesson to follow the professional. I got one or two interesting shots from our vantage point, but the better location was higher where the group took advantage of the red sky which formed above my location and they had a better view of the sun popping up over the headland. This is a location that I hope to return to and to do it more justice with a better dawn.

We then headed back to the hotel for some much needed breakfast and a hour or two of extra sleep. Then into the classroom for the main reason why I was on this workshop. Today, we would be looking at Lightroom and Paul shared some very useful workflow tips with us.

Saturday evening was given over to Portland Bill and Pulpit Rock initially and then the lighthouse after the sun had dropped from view. The sky did not really play ball and the sun was well round to the right. It was therefore an opportunity to put into practice the theory and to play with different settings without worrying about spoiling a perfect sky. The result is a number of images from the location with a myriad of settings which I can analyse and work through at a later date. Note to self, I really do need to work on the lighthouse to get the best of the location and the low light, especially for larger prints. This is something that I will work on at home and be more ready for my next trip to Dorset.

With the weather looking less and less favourable, Paul spent much of dinner studying the various useful location planning applications that we had learned about on day one and the location for the morning changed a number of times. The lesson learned here, was that advanced planning is key and can help to lessen the chance of a grotty location. The plan was to head out to Old Harry Rocks.

This was a brilliant call on Paul’s part and again it demonstrated the value in attending one of him workshops with his in depth knowledge and advance planning. The sky was fairly featureless throughout the shoot, but it did take an interesting turn mid-way through the session. The location also allowed for a number of different viewpoints and everyone made good use of those. Lesson learned here is to always keep an eye on what is going on behind you, I learned this lesson whilst with Paul in California and this was another location where the advice paid off.

The afternoon class session was given over to Photoshop and this is where I really got the most value from this workshop. We learned about removing items from images the easiest and best way, about subtly pulling details out and the reason why the histogram is so important when photographing landscapes. It was also useful to see how the tools can be used to straighten light houses and to add negative space to images and warp out unsightly edges. Something hat I will need for one or two of my images.

Rob had to leave us to travel home, but I decided to stay the course and we headed back down to Portland Bill and another shot at the lighthouse. We were presented with our best sky of the weekend and this session quickly became a lesson in how the light can change. Note to self (well a reminder of Pauls tip) the light drops quickly and roughly one stop every ten minutes during sunset. It really is a case of watching the settings, watching the histogram and being quick with the filters.

With the course done, it was time to hit the road and the long drive home.

2In conclusion, I found this workshop hugely useful and informative. I liked the pace that Paul has set for his workshops and the delivery of the classroom elements was perfect and not too burdensome and overbearing. It was easy to take in the information that was given and to apply that in the field. As always, Paul was constantly on hand to answer questions and he constantly keeps an eye on what everyone is doing and offers advice that takes your images to the next step.

These are great workshops and with options coming up that include Dorset, Iceland, New Zealand and the USA, there really is something for everyone.

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