We were delighted to have the opportunity recently to interview Alun and Valerie Thomas after they returned from our Venice Tour in January 2015, which was led by Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas. This is their feedback on what was their 6th tour with Light & Land. (All images by Alun and Valerie Thomas)
Six tours! Wow, you must love travelling with us. Which other trips have you done?
Yes we do. We came on the Budapest and Slovenia tours last year, Tuscany in 2013, and the Sark tour in 2012 - and way back in 2008 we went to Venice for the first time with Light and Land for the Carnival. In fact, this was our 4th tour with Phil and Clive as leaders!
Why did you choose the Venice trip specifically?
We wanted to return to Venice as it had been seven years since our last visit, and we knew the leaders would run an excellent trip. The time of year was also very appealing, when Venice is at its quietest. The photographic opportunities of the city are immense and they offer a great variety - from classic views and street photography, to architecture and close-up detail.
What were you hoping to achieve from a Light & Land tour, in terms of progressing your photography skills?
We choose Light & Land because we know that we will be given hours of time each day to indulge in our love of photography. We would class ourselves as 'intermediate', and these trips give us plenty of opportunity to practise and to try new techniques - with experienced leaders on hand to help and advise us, and to give feedback when we need it.
Were you happy with the places you visited, and the amount of time spent at each?
Yes, definitely - we visited a good variety of locations including the iconic St. Mark’s Square, with views of San Giorgio Maggiore, and the colourful houses and reflections of Burano. We also spent time photographing the charming backstreets and canals of lesser-visited Venice, which was a great alternative to the more well-known views. We were given plenty of time, and the benefit of somewhere like Venice is that it's a location where the ability to return to the hotel earlier than the group, or stay a little longer, is possible. Obviously with the leaders' consent!
We probably don't need to ask, but what were your thoughts on the tutors?!
As always, Phil and Clive were very good, in terms of their level of technical knowledge and the encouragement they provide. They share their time well with all the members of the tour, offering help and critiquing images in the field, so that improvements can be made whilst on site. On that note, they are also very good at quickly assessing the level of everyone’s photographic ability, and offering constructive comments at that level, which is really helpful.
Were they able to be flexible enough to adapt to different situations?
Yes definitely. They were continually taking into account things like the weather, the lighting conditions and other factors such as how busy a location was - so that the opportunities could be maximised. They were great at anticipation, so that the itinerary could be changed if appropriate - and they also knew where to go at specific times of day, in order to get the best possible conditions. Having said that, as well as making the most of the opportunities in a day, Clive and Phil are very conscious that we need ‘downtime’ to relax in as well, and are careful to factor this into the itinerary.
Was the leaders' knowledge of the locations good?
Phil and Clive are first class in the way they research and find new and interesting locations, as well as being enthusiastic about indicating the various photographic opportunities each one presents. They were also very helpful to the group in facilitating us to make the most of the time spent in each place - giving tips and ideas both compositionally and technically. We should also mention how good they are at interacting with the local population to allow photography in unusual places, which would otherwise be inaccessible. This time, they had negotiated access to a boat construction yard, and a bookshop which was quite unlike any other!
One last question, if a friend or colleague asked you whether they should consider a Light & Land tour, what would you say to them?
There are a number of factors which make us choose a Light & Land tour, and hence why we would recommend one to others.
One of the main things that we like about a tour of this type is the ability to interact with other clients, and to learn from them as well. It's great spending time with people who have a common interest, and sometimes friendships beyond the tour have resulted. Whilst the cost of a Light & Land trip is a consideration, we would prefer to go on one as our main holiday, rather than buy an expensive piece of camera equipment that rarely gets used because we don’t go anywhere.
Another key factor is that we don’t have to waste time wondering where to go (or when!), as all the locations have been sorted out for us - it's a chance to visit some great areas, and get to know them in far more detail. On a more practical note, we also don’t have to make decisions on where to eat, which can take valuable time, as excellent restaurants have already been selected.
Photography demands full concentration, so all other problems and issues of day to day life are forgotten. And the best thing of all is that we have the maximum possible time in a day for our photography. It feels like you have been granted permission to spend all day, every day, taking pictures - something that we are not able to do at home!
Post By Charlie Waite