Week 10: Photography with a Beginner’s Mind

by | Nov 18, 2018

This past week I have been in the Lake District in far north England participating in a Landscape Photography workshop with LakelandPhotographic Holidays.

It started as a wet week! This area cannot be so lush and green, supporting flocks of sheep and the odd herd of cattle along with a booming tourist industry based on tramping the fells, without at least some rain, but it can be really horrid weatherwise.

On Monday having consulted the regional weather forecast we set off in a direction of clearing and clear weather. What we experienced was constant heavy rain. At one point the sun broke through the clouds, we parked the cars, jumped out, tripod in in arms, set up on the side of the road and down came the rain. We moved seeking shelter in a nearby forest, but the rain pounded on the roof of the car as we waited inside, while the windows fogged up. Eventually we sort refuge in a small, very simple Anglican Church.

For me it was an opportunity to learn some of the simple controls on my new camera. The electronics on the camera I left home with, had been playing up for some months, but eventually stopped altogether when I was in Winchester and with the help of the staff at the London Camera Exchange in Winchester I selected a mirrorless camera with a wide angle lens- “good for landscape photographers”, the salesman said. The next day, realising that I relied heavily on the zoom capacity of my old Canon bridge camera, I returned to the shop and purchased my first ever telephoto lens.

So back in the St Bartholomew’s at Loweswater without too much entanglement of tripods nine of us, eight participants and our host John, exposed every corner of the church to our various lenses. After about an hour we were joined by a group of drenched walkers who had been out in the hills as part of navigation training. One by one they would come to the door of the church and squeeze out the water from their drenched walking gloves before settling down to eat their pack lunch. Soon after our group, aware there would be no picnic in the woods today, opened our lunch boxes. A new experience of “breaking bread” in Church. Maybe one of the reasons the local churches are not locked is that they are a place of refugee for those tramping the hills in inclement weather or following misadventure. I had noticed that the classic red telephone box next to where we parked our car had been converted to a defibrillator storage point.

I approached this Landscape Photography workshop with a beginner’s mind. Despite having enjoyed photographing for some five decades and having participated in some photography courses I have never really mastered the technical aspects of photography, rather leaving the camera set to auto mode and I have relied on my eye for creative composition. With mixed success. But one of the advantages of digital photography is that the shutter may be depressed 1000’s of times but only the “good” images are shared.

However, this was a week where I needed to get to know my new camera and to do so by moving off “auto” mode. I have been learning about “f” stops, depth of field, shutter speeds and ISO. Terms I new about but now I was beginning to understand within the context of photos. The other participants are members of photo clubs, possess big stable tripods, carry a bag with multiple lens and some even use multiple cameras throughout the day. In one sense I am the “novice” in the group and intimidated by the technical jargon and level of critique. But I surrender and accept my sense of vulnerability and embrace the beginners mind. And what a rich learning experience it has been despite at times inclement weather.

With gratitude to John and Deb from Lakeland Photographic holidays and my fellow participants, Chris, David, Elaine, Fred, Ken, Roger and Sue (from Melbourne).

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