Mull & Iona 3 – Photography Lessons

I was 40 last November and as part of my birthday present my wonderful wife arranged for me to spend a day with pro-photographer Phil McDermott whilst we were up on Mull.

In a nutshell – I had a great day!

Phil’s photography experience is extensive and he’s generous with his time and knowledge – always eager to share his enthusiasm and passion for the subject. He’s also a very easy-going and amiable chap – which is a good thing as we were out and about for a good 12 hours taking photo’s, talking about photography and generally chatting about a host of other subjects. I got back to Fionnphort at about 10pm, totally exhausted but thoroughly inspired.

So what lessons did I learn from my day with Phil?

Well, firstly, he was the one who encouraged me to start this photography blog – so it’s all Phil’s fault if you want someone to blame….;0). I had been thinking about setting up a website for some time, but couldn’t really decide on what I wanted to do or who to host it with – I tried a few options like Clicpic, Photium and Zenfolio – but didn’t really get on with any of them. It was Phil who first mentioned WordPress and the idea of photo-blogging to me……..and I’m very glad that he did, because in just a few short weeks I’m up and running and there is no stopping me now!!

A few other tips I picked up from Phil……

1. As photographers we should be trying to capture the brightest image we can with the minimum amount of highlight clipping. So always keep an eye on the right-hand side of the histogram and use exposure compensation accordingly.

2. Invest in a set of ND, ND Grad and polarizing filters. N.B. I haven’t yet practiced what I’ve preached in this regard – but it’s at the top of my most wanted photo kit list.

3. I’d always shot landscapes at F16 to ensure good front to back sharpness with a large depth of field. However if you take note of the hyper-focal distance then you can get great landscape shots at F8 or F11 – which is normally the sweet spot of most lenses.

……I could go on, but I won’t….for now at least!

Above are a small selection of the shots I took on my workshop day. There are others that I might post in future – we also did some macro studio work and experimented taking multiple exposures of the same subject, in preparation for creating HDR images. That reminds me I need to invest in an HDR software plug-in for Aperture 3 – I must add that to the aforementioned photo kit list too…:0).

The first shot was taken at Croggan, looking out across Loch Spelve. We were experimenting with polarizing filters for this one.

The next two are of the stunning Ardmeanach Peninsula lit by the rapidly dying light of the late evening sun. It wasn’t somewhere we were actually going to stop, but the light was so stunning that we just had to pull over on the dramatic winding road and take a couple of handheld grab-shots.

Finally there is a shot of Ben More, Mull’s highest mountain and the only Munro in the Hebrides outside of Skye, taken from the shore of Loch na Keal and using an ND Grad filter.

To sum-up if you’re an amateur photographer (beginner, novice or keen enthusiast) and planning a trip to Mull then I would highly recommend booking a photo-workshop with Phil McDermott – it was an excellent day and I certainly learned a lot!

Copyright: © The Photography of Mark Simms (2012). All rights reserved.


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