The Active Photographer – a Jolly review

A couple of weekends ago I was asked if I would like to go along to the very first Active Photographer Jolly, run by Giles (The Active Photographer) with his sidekick Will (Whole Life Photography). It’s a course/workshop/experience designed for people passionate about the outdoors, who want to take better photos, or photographers with a keen interest in the outdoors.

I had previously exchanged Tweets with Giles, and had met him two weeks previously at Terry BND’s outdoor boggers meet in Monsal Dale where we ended up nattering quite a bit. I have a rather bruised and battered Canon S90 with a busted flash, which I had managed to break a couple of weeks previously. I mentioned at the time that I was unsure about what to expect and was slightly nervous about my lack of photography skill and equipment. Giles reassured me that so long as I could manually control everything on my camera (which I could), I would be fine and dandy.

Turning up on the Saturday morning, I met Giles at the Back of Beyond Touring Caravan park. My initial apprehension about the rows of caravans dissipated when I was guided through to a field at the rear which revealed a delightful woodland glade and site of special scientific interest. Some of the folks attending had been there since the Friday night so I was greeted warmly as I pitched up my tent.

The Active Photographer Jolly
The weather forecast for the weekend was a stinker, and as the introductions began under the gazebo, the first tickle of rain started to come down. Doing our best to ignore the grey skies, Will and Giles set the scene for the weekend as to what we could expect and I suddenly felt very self conscious amongst the DSLR’s nestling on the knees of my fellow students.

After the initial icebreakers, we set off through the park to some gorse bushes and open space on the far side of the Park. Early September is one of my favourite times and the feeling in the air was of the last vestiges of summer twinged by Autumn pushing through. The rain started to come down though, so we nipped in to the woods and were confronted by a quite extraordinary site, the floor having a strong sprinkling of mushrooms with the most gorgeous purple tops.

The Active Photographer Jolly
We started to snap away and Giles went through some of the basics. Straight away I got something that will last with me forever, namely the joys of aperture. I have always loved shots where the item in focus is the only thing in focus and the rest of the image drops away, now I knew how to do it and I went to town. Within a couple of hours, I started to take photos that were light years away from what I had taken previously, and I began to enjoy myself immensely. I also began to fall in love with my Canon S90 again. We had chosen it as it was a small compact with a great reputation, and I finally felt that I could do it some justice with the photos I was taking. The rest of the day flew by in a jiffy looking first at composition, then on to some equipment hacks that Giles use. I won’t give too much of the game away, but I will never look at a sock and a bag of rice again in the same way….

By the end of the day, my mind was buzzing with filters, composition, ISO settings and the like and we settled down to an amazing BBQ with toasted Marshmallows to finish. I took the rare opportunity to get a decent nights kip and was woken to the sound of a torrential downpour in the middle of the night bouncing off my Nemo Obi 2P which coped admirably. The morning afterwards saw us putting in to practice everything we had learnt the day before, the Back of Beyond park really came in to it’s own with woodland, lakes and the glade like campsite giving plenty of differing opportunities to shoot a wide variety of outdoor subjects and landscapes.

The Active Photographer Jolly
All in all it was a fabulous weekend, I have written here about my thoughts on learning from the weekend, but in terms of skills learnt, my photos have come on in leaps and bounds. I did feel the odd twinge of jealousy for a DSLR, but that was my gadget jealousy. Giles never made me feel out of place with my S90, and both him and Will took the time out to give specific guidance that was relevant for a compact point & shoot. Looking at my Flickr stream my photos before and after are noticeably better after, and I know my photography has changed now for life. Whether you are a die hard photographer looking to improve your skills , or an outdoor nut with very little experience as I was, I would thoroughly recommend anyone interested in enjoying their outdoors photography more to get in contact with Giles for the next Jolly. I am also super chuffed to announce that we will have a place on an upcoming course available as a prize on our facebook page soon so stay tuned!

What’s your experience of outdoor photography and if there was one tip you would pass on, what would it be?

Read More