After a couple of interviews on some of our more far-flung tours, we thought we’d come back to the UK this time, and chat to Andy Hill about his recent trip to Dorset with Charlie Waite. On this occasion, the ‘British Summer’ rather failed us, and conditions were a little challenging at times to say the least! But you can’t keep intrepid landscape photographers indoors for long . . . so read on to find out how Andy and Charlie, and the rest of our guests, got on.
All images copyright Andy Hill.
How many tours or workshops have you done previously with Light & Land?
This was my fourth tour with Light & Land – all in the UK so far. Previous tours have included the Lake District with Clive Minnit and Phil Malpas, Cornwall with Carla Regler and a Long Exposures tour in Brighton with Doug Chinnery.
Sounds like a good selection! So how did you first hear about Light & Land?
I first heard of Charlie Waite whilst watching a photography show on Channel 5 with Suzi Perry. Charlie was setting tasks for new photographers and critiquing their techniques, and he seemed like a nice chap. Then I visited the 2011 Landscape Photographer of The Year exhibition on London’s Southbank and I bought the accompanying book (Collection 5) and found out that Charlie ran workshops through his company Light & Land.
And why did you choose the Dorset trip specifically?
It was a combination of location, timing, length of trip, and the tutor of course! I’d never been to many of the locations in Dorset that were outlined in the tour description, and I was looking for something that was more than just a weekend, but less than a whole week. And having seen Charlie on TV and on video, I thought it was about time I met him in person and took advantage of his knowledge and experience.
What level would you say you were as a photographer?
I would say I’m an amateur who is only just taking photographs that I would consider printing. I’m now confident enough to leave the dial in ‘manual’ mode, and play with LEE filters (thanks to Doug Chinnery!) but I’m still very much a learner.
What were you hoping to achieve from a Light & Land tour in terms of progressing your photography skills?
I think I’m like most amateurs - you know you need more practice, but with work commitments I struggle to find the time. Booking a tour like this forces you to carve out the time and concentrate on your hobby. For this tour, my main aim was learn more about composition and to get more practice. I definitely got more practice, and I have a different appreciation of composition than I had before the tour. There was also an unexpected bonus, which was my first foray into multiple exposures.
What were your thoughts on the places you visited, and were you happy with the time spent at each place?
On the Sunday, we had a talk from Charlie before heading out to Kingston Lacey and Knowlton Church, plus spending time photographing a lovely beech avenue. Then on Monday, it unfortunately rained all day – so we had an impromptu seminar/critique session in the morning, which was very useful, before braving the outdoors! We ended up in a wood near a small airfield, where we worked on the technique of multiple exposures. To make up for lost time, we managed to fit in three locations on the Tuesday - Sturminster Newton, Fiddleford Manor and Stourhead.
The location choices were good, especially for the weather conditions. They provided an opportunity to try different composition techniques and they were also easy to get to. When it came to time spent, I never felt rushed or that I'd exhausted my options for the location - so for me it was just right.
So were you pleased with the level of technical knowledge, enthusiasm and encouragement of your tutor?
Anyone who has the privilege to spend time with Charlie will know that he has the patience of a saint. Not only is he generous with his time, he is extremely calm and you never feel rushed - yet he has bags of enthusiasm and really wants you to enjoy yourselves. The tuition was absolutely appropriate for me, and Charlie was quick to understand my competence level and came up with a few impromptu challenges to stretch me. I would add that he also really helped me to slow down and take in my surroundings before pressing the shutter and moving on.
How was Charlie’s knowledge of the area and the best places to go?
It really helped that we were in his own ‘back yard’ so to speak, as Dorset is, as he had to be very adaptable – not only to the weather but also to the group. We weren’t the most mobile group, so it was important that Charlie took this on board - and despite the poor weather I still got a number of shots that I’m pleased with.
Were you happy with the level of one to one engagement?
We were given a pep talk at each location, and then we were encouraged to play and experiment. Charlie made sure that we were able to get on with our own mini projects, but he would also suggest shots if we started to run out of ideas. On the Monday, when it absolutely tipped it down, some of us still wanted to brave the weather - so he took us to a wood where we stood under umbrellas to practice. It was then that he taught me how to do multiple exposures, which opened my eyes to a technique I didn’t realize my camera was able to do. He seemed genuinely excited to try this out it and it was very infectious - a Charlie Waite experience I shall treasure!
So how was Charlie’s ability to be flexible to take lighting and weather conditions into account?
As I mentioned, we were rather unlucky with the weather, as it rained on and off during the three days - so we were treated to not one, but two, impromptu seminars on photography. On the Sunday Charlie took us through a selection of fantastic photographs, and we were encouraged to explore what we felt made a great photograph. Then on the Monday during another downpour, he took us through how he constructed some of his iconic photographs – and invited us to critique them and discuss what could make them even better! Both mini workshops were fascinating and I really think that he has fundamentally changed how I approach my photography as a whole.
One last question - if a friend or colleague asked you whether they should consider a Light & Land tour, what would you say to them?
With Light & Land tours you have a wide variety of techniques, locations and tutors to choose from. So you are more likely to find something that appeals to what you want to learn, where you want to go and who you’d like to receive tuition from. The ‘tutor to photographer’ ratio means that you get plenty of opportunity for one to one tuition, which to me is really important - and a must if you are at all unsure or uncertain on how to use your camera or a technique. The accommodation is always excellent and the footstep levels really helps you understand how much hiking and exertion is involved.
With Light & Land you can relax in the knowledge that you will improve your technique, and you’ll meet attentive and knowledgeable instructors who have created some truly magical photographs. Having been on four tours already, not only have I learnt a new technique or process each time, it has definitely set the benchmark for all other photography tours!