I’ve just held my first photography workshop in this area, in a village called Calverton. I didn’t do it alone, but with a fellow tutor I’ve met since moving here – I like to teach photography but not photo-processing, and Gill likes to teach photo-processing but not photography, so we were obviously made to work together.
Our plan for the workshop went seriously awry early in the day. We had billed it as a creative workshop and we wanted to put the emphasis on developing photographic vision rather than the technical side of camera work, following that up by doing a little creative post-processing with the resulting shots. However it became clear pretty quickly that our students felt they were more in need of help with the technical elements and so I did one of those abrupt about-turns you sometimes have to do when you’re teaching and re-jigged it to suit – in the end, it’s more important to give people what they want than what you (perhaps rather high-handedly) think they should have. However, I did manage to sneak in one exercise on the ‘seeing’ part of things and that’s what I’m going to talk about here.
I put together a simplified version of a coursework exercise I did early on with OCA. For my version of it, I made up some cards with various shapes or qualities written on them:
- squares and rectangles
- spirals and circles
I put the cards face down in a heap in the middle of the table and asked everyone to take two. If they really didn’t like a card that they’d picked up they were allowed to put it back and take another. Then they had twenty minutes to go outside and create as many pictures as they could that featured one or more of the qualities on the cards they’d chosen. I wasn’t at all sure how this would go down, or how people would cope with it, but I was really surprised and pleased with the results.
It wasn’t an easy task, as the immediate area was fairly uninspiring. It comprised of a small shopping centre with nothing much to recommend it, a car park, and a short stretch of village street. With only twenty minutes to complete the task, there wasn’t time to wander far or to think much about what to shoot. Everyone came back with some great shots – in one instance, there was a bit of a problem with camera shake, but the images themselves were good ones and well-seen. Another student had picked up ‘colour’ and ‘diagonals’ and had decided to concentrate on finding red things that would also fit the ‘diagonal’ brief – ambitious in the time, but she pulled it off. The final part of the day was for each student to create a photo collage or mosaic out of their shots, and the collection of reds and diagonals worked really well for this.
I’d thought that we might have to give our students some help, but by the time we got outside they’d mostly disappeared and the only person I could see looked quite happy and absorbed in what they were doing. Since I believe in putting your money where your mouth is, I’d picked up a couple of cards myself, thinking that I might get a chance to give the exercise a go. I’ve done similar things before, but only over the course of several weeks and I wanted to see how I’d get on finding reasonable shots that fulfilled the brief in ten minutes – all the time that was left by then.
I surprised myself with how much fun I had in that ten minutes, and I got an unexpected number of decent shots. Some are a lot more interesting than others, of course. Anyway, here’s what I took in that ten minutes – I’ve left out a very small number of shots that either didn’t work or were just too dull to include. The following images mostly use diagonals rather than colour as there wasn’t much colour about, and the diagonals range from the obvious to the fairly subtle. The first image cried out to be converted to black and white, as did the drain at the top of this post and the section of noticeboard below. The rest worked much better in colour. In all, I took 22 shots in 10 minutes – in many cases there were several shots of the same thing – and ended up with a dozen reasonably decent images. If you’d asked me, I wouldn’t have been sure I could have done that!
My own favourite of the day is this one; I looked up and saw this pattern of leaves on a rather ugly plastic roof:
I only shot three images that could qualify for ‘colour’. Two are very conventional but quite pretty shots of the wonderful light shining through some dead leaves in the gutter, and the other was the colourful village noticeboard. I’ve used a section of the same noticeboard above for ‘diagonal’, and in that instance it worked better as a black and white shot as it focused attention on the diagonal shadow. Here, the diagonal shadow becomes a lesser part of the image and the colour holds most of the impact.