The Creative Eye

On Saturday Steve and I went on his belated Christmas present – a photography workshop called The Creative Eye, organised by Derek Gale of Gale Photography. I know Derek through 4Networking and admire his photographic style, especially his abstract work, so was looking forward to learning his views on the art of photography.

The course took place at Stanton House Hotel, near Swindon, which is owned by a company owned by Honda – it’s a lovely building, an old Cotswold stone house overlooking a lake, with pretty grounds and a beautiful interior. There’s a slight Japanese twist to it too, especially in the restaurant. Anyway, the setting was perfect for experimenting with new camera techniques.

There were five of us on the workshop and we started the day by taking deliberately bad photos: chopped off heads, busy backgrounds, reflections of ourselves, trees out of heads, that kind of thing. It seemed like a weird thing to be doing but made sense once we’d completed the exercise – because we’d actually consciously thought about how to create a “bad” photo rather than just taken one!

The course was broken down into sections looking at various ways to take creative photographs. One of the simplest methods – but one I’d somehow overlooked – was taking the subject matter off centre, either using the “Rule of Thirds” or just putting the subject far to one side of the frame. I chose a rather dull subject – a large ball at the bottom of some steps outside – and moved it around in my photo. What I found was that in some positions, the ball ceased to be the main subject because some other detail, previously unnoticed – in this case, an interesting building – took centre stage. Definitely made a better picture!

At one stage Derek asked us to look round for something we thought would make a good photographic subject and I discovered a beautiful chandelier in the conservatory. I had a chance to photograph it later, as part of the “Patterns and Textures” exercise, and it did indeed make for a good photo, though to be honest the rows of cups and saucers below it were even better!

We  also looked at using perspective (taking photos from above or below the subject, especially useful in portrait photography), close ups (filling the frame), depth of field and using reflections or distortions to add interest to a photo. However, my favourite section was about movement – of the camera, the subject or both – and how combining movement with a long exposure and flash can create some really exciting abstracts. I took a few photos on the day (including one where Steve’s hands appeared to disappear!) but also tried it out at home and created (what I think is) a fabulous abstract image! It’s the one at the top of this post – I’d love your comments!

At lunch (sushi and quiche, a strange combination!) we were set a challenge – to take a creative group portrait. Ideas flew backwards and forwards across the table and eventually we settled on taking it in the stairwell, with four of us on a leather sofa and the fifth – who was chosen to take the photo – looking down on  us from the top of the stairs. With a long exposure and some zoom movement the finished photo is a strange eery picture with mysterious streaks and light entering the shot. (I haven’t got a copy of it yet but will add it when I do!)

The day finished with some time spent exploring photo manipulation software including Photoshop and Picasa and, having found out how to make our creative photos even more creative, we went our separate ways.

Derek said at the beginning that he was hoping to help us view the world with different eyes and that has been the case – I’ve been seeing patterns in everything ever since and while I haven’t yet perfected the technical side of photography, my images are already looking more creative because I’m thinking more about the composition and trying out different ways of taking the shots. Derek was a great tutor – he delivered the course clearly and was always willing to take questions, even if they took us off in a different direction. He was enthusiastic and made sure that he spent time with everyone looking at their work and helping where needed. Highly recommended!!

You can see some of my photos from the course on Flickr

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