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Old 10th March 2011
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Zuiko Zuiko is offline
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Arrow Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Despite being a keen landscape photographer for nearly 40 years Iím completely self-taught, Iíve never been on a course or workshop of any kind and some may say it shows! I felt it was time to attend one, partly to brush up my technique and partly to see how it is run, with a view to possibly running some myself.

Iím on a bit of a budget these days so it had to be not too far from home and for one day only, but run by competent photographers from whom I would get full value. For some time I had been aware of the courses on the Norfolk Coast offered by Kate Barclay and John Duckett, two very gifted photographer with some incredible images on their web sites, and at £120 for an 8 hour day starting before sunrise this seemed to fit my requirements exactly.

The weather forecast for the day seemed to change constantly during the preceding week and I had mixed feelings about what to hope for. Obviously a spectacular dawn and sunrise followed by a day of dramatic interplay of sun and clouds would be perfect, but I was also keen to see how Kate and John coped with bad weather. In the end we had a compromise; it was dry but mainly grey with few breaks in the cloud and generally flat light.

Three other students and I met our hosts in the car park at Morston Quay, half an hour before the theoretical sunrise which, we were assured would have made a spectacular shot looking along the creek. Never mind, the day would be all about composition and tones, looking for scenes that would work in B&W or with muted colours. A quick check that our cameras were set to manual, raw, low ISO and small aperture and we were off, exploring the boats, jetties and other paraphernalia of the creek at a low, but incoming tide.

Kate and John took two students each, swapping groups a little later. We were offered constant advice and coaching on composition, metering, where to focus in the scene and the use of ND grad filters, plus much more. I listened carefully to how they advised me and also the other students, impressed at how they tailored the instruction to different levels of experience. I did not expect to get much in the way of results in those conditions, it was more about practice, refining my technique and, in my case, observing how the course was structured and how the tutors interacted with the students. I was, however, quite pleased with the muted tones and soft, gentle mood of this cameo of a solitary dingy awaiting the rising tide.



There are a lot of flat horizons in Norfolk which can present a challenge to successful composition. Also, I'm aware of a weakness in my ability to see portrait format compositions, which I don't do as often as I should. Both Kate and John helped me with this and John drew my attention to a rather dynamic composition using a wide angle to give foreground prominence to a concrete plinth and mooring chain. Around mid-morning we adjourned to a cafe at Cley-Next-The-Sea for a substantial breakfast, included in the course fee. Afterwards we were able to move to comfy chairs and gather around Kate's laptop for a quick demo of Lightroom, using one image from each student. I must admit I've never appreciated just how excellent Lightroom is and I'm afraid it's now one more item on a never ending list of things to buy! For my image Kate selected the composition to which John had alerted me and did a very quick B&W conversion to show me the potential. Later I converted and processed myself in Elements to produce this:-



Now well fed, we resumed our photography, this time amongst the reed beds on the marshes around the landmark windmill at Cley. We were encouraged to use the foreground reeds to hide unwanted elements around the mill and also to use an ND filter to slow our shutter speeds and allow the breeze to blur the reeds.



Our last session was due to be held at Blakeney but we had already slipped beyond the allotted 8 hours. Kate and John were in no particular hurry but two of my fellow participants had to leave. We went to Blakeney anyway, where John produced tea, coffee, cake and savoury snacks from his car. Sandwiches were also available but nobody felt the need after our big breakfast. With Sarah and Margaret departed, Peter and I decided to walk along the creek. We were accompanied by Kate and John, this time with their cameras now that the course was formally over. I split from the other three when they decided to wade the low water of the creek in their wellies; I had only walking boots.

A little further on I chanced upon this composition in which I particularly like the curves in the mud leading through the picture towards the tiny building on the distant horizon. And it is in portrait orientation!



At last some meaningful light was starting to break through the clouds and at one point my head spun nearly 360į as I attempted to follow itís fleeting progress without any prospect of reacting quickly enough to make a photograph. I was re-joined briefly by Kate, John and Peter before saying my goodbyes and heading over towards an embankment, beyond which I could see some amazing light in the direction of Cley. I scuttled along as fast as I can go these days hardly daring to hope that the light would last, but it did! I was rewarded with this distant shot across the marshes of the village, dominated by the windmill.



To make the most of my trip to Norfolk Iíd decided to stay on for a couple of extra days and had booked to stay at the bunkhouse at Burnham Deepdale. This was ideally situated for a dawn visit to Thornham Creek. The next day dawned clear and bright, a bit too clear, in fact, with not a solitary cloud in sight. If the previous day had been the grey sky of doom this was surely the blue sky of death. So often in these conditions the sunrise itself is nothing special. A certain amount of cloud is needed to get the really spectacular effects. However, just after sunrise the light was crisp, fresh and very warm toned, producing this shot for me.



I took several others, albeit not quite so successful, and ended my session with a shot of this boat, just begging to be photographed.



By 9.00am the light was too harsh and I went in search, successfully I might add, of another big breakfast. Later I went for a short walk along the beach at Holme, exploring the dunes around Gore Point for future reference. In the evening I moved along to the beach at Hunstanton to capture the famous striped cliffs illuminated by the golden setting sun.



Dawn on my last day was experienced at Brancaster Staithe but once again the sunrise was a comparatively weak affair. Nevertheless, I did get one shot of the sun just starting to rise across the creek amongst the distant trees beyond and the sky did display a little colour.



There is always much of interest for a photographer at the staithe and I took a few more shots before the light lost its warmth and became too harsh.







One more big breakfast later and I was on my way home. The break had definitely re-fired my enthusuasm and the workshop itself was extremely useful, relevant and interesting for photographers of any level. It was also very good value and I can certainly recommend it. Kate and John helped hone my skills, sharpen my eye for a picture and gave me food for thought in the wider context of at some point offering workshops myself. However, they have set the bar high and there is certainlya lot to live up to. My thanks to them both.

Details of Kate and John's workshops can be found here.

See more of John's pictures here.

See more of Kate's pictures here.
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Last edited by Zuiko; 10th March 2011 at 09:54 PM.
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Great read John and fantastic photographs.

I've always wanted to try a course like this, I really think I could learn a lot.

I think the B&W shot is my favorite.

Great work and thanks for posting.

Cheers
Garrie
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Sounds very worth while John and it is certainly something I would love to do Some cracking shots of an area which appears very similar in parts to the Solway Firth.

Greg
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Absolutely brilliant thread, very interesting read and photos to view, it has made me think about taking up a workshop myself in my area, thanks for sharing
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Excellent!

And a nice resume of a well-run course you clearly enjoyed.

I'd be delighted if I could manage to take just one of the pictures you've shown us. They're all really good.

I did enrol on a day's course once, it was a totally disorganised waste of time, and we all got our money back.
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Very inteesting and informative post with some great images John.

I really only "discovered" the N. Norfolk coast when I got into birdwatching. It's mecca to us birders but also has such wild and beautiful scenery, can't get enough of it.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

As said a fantastic thread....can you expand it into a book

There might not have been a lot of ideal light about but you have made the most of what was there

Brings back some great memories of Cley and the Cafe.....wonder if it's the same one we did B&B in in the 80's.It used to be the hub of the Birdwatching grapevine and all the sightings were channelled through the phone there...Pre mobiles and the web....ah those were the days.

Thanks for the links...what a great pair of portfolios.

Keith
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Great thread John and some great images as well,thanks for sharing.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Zuiko Zuiko is offline
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Thanks for all the comments, guys. I certainly had a really enjoyable few days.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Hi John

Another well written informative article, thanks.

I'm not surprised that you would like to hold some tuition days of your own, who wouldn't at £120 per person per day, nice work if you can get it!!

It must be a really good feeling if you can make a living out of something that you really enjoy, giving the normal hum drum exsistance a miss!

I wish you luck if you decide to give it a go...

Lovely pics on show in the thread but my fav would have to be the B&W.

Well done
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Good post !

And timely as I'm off to old Hunstanton for 5 days the week after next.
Sometime I'd like to do the course you recommend, it looks exellent.

Further your idea about running a course (and anyone else here who is thinking similar thoughts); Why don't you practise running a course on fellow forum members.

I for one would like a day course as locally as possible, on quite basic stuff and I bet I'm not the only one. If it was run by an Oly user with a bunch of other oly users as co-deligates, I think I'd get even more out of it than this one you describe.

As you describe the actual cost of the course is not very much, its the travel & accomodation & time away from home.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Wow John, what a fantastic read, many many thanks for such a post. I love these type of threads, really do.

It's great to get inside your head and follow you as you move through the day. As I read this, I felt as though I too, were exploring your ideas, thoughts and found myself waiting in excited anticipation for what's next.

And... as for that 1st photograph... well it simply has to be up there in the top three photos I have seen from you John. It s a cracker.

Thanks for posting.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

Super well illustrated read on what seems to be a worthwhile course.
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Old 11th March 2011
Ray Shotter Ray Shotter is offline
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

John,

Very interesting account of your days on the Norfolk Coast and some lovely photographs. Thanks for taking the trouble to record all the details.

Ray.
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Old 11th March 2011
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Re: Workshop on the Norfolk Coast - WARNING: LONG POST

I agree with all the above. It's an area I know reasonably well and is photographically fantastic with so much variety of scenery and lighting. You've really done it justice here, with some great shots, and I'm so tempted to book in myself!

A very good idea though is to try something similar more informally - just for us!!
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