TLDR – I went to a talk by professional photographer David George, who then gave us a night photography workshop. I also caught a cold.


THURSDAY

After finishing our first lecture of ASU2, I ran over to the Monastery with Emmaalouise and Ranieri because we had signed up to a Masterclass with professional photographer, David George. His talk was on night photography and the uncanny. A lot of his work is night photography of urban scenes which, despite being inherently harmless, all seem to be imbued with a haunting sense of unease. The talk lasted about an hour and consisted of stories of how his projects came to life, the process he works through each time, and his life as a professional and freelance photographer. It was really interesting and it was over before I realised how long we’d been there.

Afterwards, James Cant (photography lecturer at NUA) had arranged for us to go out with David and work on our own ideas for a night shoot. It was a pretty informal affair which was enjoyable and relaxing. We didn’t have enough cameras for one each, annoyingly, but I teamed up with Emma and Ranieri to walk by the river and the Elm Hill area of the city to work on some shots. There were about 15 of us in total, including Neil and Dibs (photography students from my RIPU seminar last year).

There was no set project or plan to the evening, other than to experiment with long exposures and composition to see what works well. David gave us some advice on the best settings to use depending on the mood we wanted to create, as well as some cool technical tips about painting landscapes with light, and creating light trails. Neil was very adamant that he does not like light trails, yet as soon as my group figured out how to work them properly, we were like kids. We were obsessed with playing, and the excitement of creating a photo yet not knowing how it would turn out until after the fact, and we basically played with our camera torches for the next 2 hours. It’s a good job we were having so much fun, because it was freezing. Actually freezing, I think the weather was -1. Gradually people got too cold and started drifting home, but we were one of the last to go.

My favourite three shots of the night were probably these:

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ISO 400, f/10, 8″ exposure: This was the first time we really got a photo with a light trail to go as planned. We set the camera up with a long exposure, then I went to the end of the alleyway with my phone torch on. When the shutter was pressed, I ran towards the camera swinging my arm in wide circles like an idiot.
2-2
ISO 400, f/8, 8″ exposure: Like the one above, I thought it might be cool to try and use the light trails to highlight something specific. Emma had spent  while setting up this to take a photo of the lifebuoy, and after she was done, I took another. This time though, I ran up to the buoy and waved my phone around it to create a circle. It’s not a great circle.
3-2
ISO 400, f/14, 15″ exposure: Emma wanted to try and write “NUA” with her phone, and while her joined up writing is just about legible, she stood still for too long and got picked up by the camera. But due to the long exposure, she looks like a ghost. Which I love.

FRIDAY

The morning session was all about editing, or more specifically, doing as little editing as possible. David was keen to stress that you should be doing as much as physically possible on location and in camera. Programmes like Adobe Bridge and Illustrator should just be used for tweaking things like levels, and for adding finishing touches like borders. If you’re doing much more ‘editing’ than that, then basically you’re not that good at photography.

Like last night, we got back into our groups (because there weren’t that many free computers in the photography studio), so I sat with Emmaalouise and Ranieri. We looked through all our photos and we asked to narrow it down to about 4 or 5, then we would tweak those images, and eventually print one image each that we were happy with.

Choosing photos was harder than expected, because we liked a lot of the ones we had taken. They weren’t all especially good or technically proficient, but we enjoyed shooting them, they were fun, and we didn’t want to leave any out. In the end, we focused on the majority of shots with light trails, as they seemed to be the ones we had the most fun with. Our experimenting with bracketing didn’t really pan out as we didn’t have a big enough difference between each frame, so we were left with a few shots of the river, a couple of a wall, and lots of us messing about with our phone torches.

After chatting with David about the sorts of things we should be adjusting (almost nothing), we tweaked the levels ever so slightly, increased a bit of the contrast, toned down the colour and the temperature a little, and then added some white borders.

At this point, Emmaalouise left to go to a meditation session, and after a few mishaps with network issues and printing credits, Ranieri and I discovered we couldn’t actually print any photos without her. Regardless, we looked at the rest of the group’s offerings and were suitably impressed. There were some really interesting images on show, and David seemed impressed (or he was just being extremely polite).

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I got a lot out of this masterclass, so much so that it bothered me that there weren’t more like it on offer. I would go to these things all the time if I could. It was a real treat to meet with and talk to someone like David, who has years of experience and knowledge which he was more that happy to share with us. His talk was engaging, and having him work with us in the field really opened my eyes to how simple, yet gratifying, this sort of photography can be. Hats off to James Cant as well, who gave us tips and advise while sipping his tea and rubbing his hands to keep warm.

On my way home, I had a few errands to do in town, and I decided to print a few images and get a frame for them too. I like the way this turned out, a little triptych I’ll hang on my wall as a reminder of this workshop. 

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