The two vans pulled up in front of a stunning black beach, huge rocks visible in the distance. Known as the “stacks’ in Iceland, they were plunked there centuries ago by a volcano and carved by a retreating glacier. The landscape in Iceland, a small very “new” land in terms of world history, is jam packed with unimaginable treasures for photographers and nature lovers alike.
Nine people plus our teacher/photographer and our tour coordinator piled out of the vans and lickitesplit were off in different directions setting up cameras on tripods, stimulated and inspired by the awesome surroundings. Not me, while equally inspired, being the total beginner in the group, I wasn’t always sure what to do. No, make that, most of the time, I didn’t know what to do.
I didn’t even have a “proper” photography bag. Half of our group came from British Isles and the word “proper” was sprinkled through daily conversations. They all had back packs filled with lenses and filters and stuff mysterious to me. My camera was stuffed into the tote I used as a carry-on on the plane. Clearly less than “proper.”
I had never used a tripod and regrettably I am somewhat mechanically challenged and slightly dyslexic. I was flummoxed and frustrated with the the levers and buttons and series of twisting turns to get the unwieldy thing I had purchased the day before the trip set up and camera firmly attached. Fortunately I got help and got going, but I wished I had practiced at home.
It was an amazing experience to be off with folks who were comfortable with how their cameras worked and totally in awe of the scenery. They came to shoot fabulous postcard perfect images. What an opportunity. The material to work with was all around us. Jaw dropping much of the time. Sometimes I’d forget I was there to take pictures.
My goals were to see the Northern Lights and to move beyond putting my camera on Auto and shooting. Frankly I have friends who tell me they like the images I post on DesignDestinations.org and that makes me feel good, but mostly I feel like it is “dumb luck” when I get one I like.
I took the Wild Photography Holiday trip to move beyond “dumb luck” and gain skills to be better. Just to be clear, the WPH literature says even “people new to SLR cameras were welcome.”
For example, I wanted to learn how that histogram functions. I have been told multiple times it is the key to good photography. Actually the first step was finding it on the camera. And then what does it mean? What do you do with those little white lights. F-Stops. Shutter speeds. ISO. Exposure Compensation. Focusing. Depth of Field. I’ve read about these terms in books coming to the conclusion I needed to spend concentrated time without all the interruptions and demands of daily life to zero in on and understand this stuff.
I pointed my Nikon toward spectacular waterfalls, huge chucks of glacier ice, glorious volcanic mountains with still ponds or lakes in the foreground, beautiful fall colors. While shooting, I tried to remember or asked endless questions (thank you Niall and some classmates for your patient answering and explaining), what to do and then….holy moley, compose something original.
Actually I didn’t really think much about composition until the end of the week. And that’s ok. I worked on what I came to learn. Not only did I learn the basic stuff, I learned that what really excites me as a photographer are the odd and the quirky images. I’m probably more of what is called a Street Photographer (Henry Cartier Bresson’s Decisive Moment turns me on) and I like strong graphic images. It was fun to learn this about myself.
I also learned about the difference between Narrative Photography which is telling a story and Art, which Niall Benvie, our accomplished and talented photographer/teacher explained was making a beautiful images. While admiring the “art” approach, I’m fundamentally more of a Narrative person.
The week was great. I hated to have it end. I loved the folks I spent the week with and would love to meet up with them again. My head is exploding with what I learned and I’m going to practice, practice, practice. If I’m lucky, I’ll do another photography tour and next time, trust me, I’ll have a Proper photo bag and I’ll be the first out of the van, heading off to explore the wonderful world in which we live.