Digital SLR Photography - October 2016

23rd September 2016
I was very honoured to be asked to do the "Photo Workshop" feature in Digital SLR Photography. In this month's issue you can see the result, an 8 page feature and plenty of photographs of how the day went.

I was asked about a year ago if I was interested in doing the feature and of course I jumped at the chance. It wasn't until June that plans started to be made to do the feature in July. The subject of "Summer Insects" was chosen and the professional photographer would be Ross Hoddinott. I already knew Ross as I had attended three Dawn 2 Dusk Photography Workshops, where Ross had been a tutor. I was excited about taking part and having a great opportunity to learn from a real "close-up" photography expert.

I nearly missed the opportunity to do the feature, as I was unable to take time off of work in July and this really hampered getting a Saturday or Sunday where Ross was free and the weather was good. We agreed a Saturday in July and the forecast was a good sunny day but it could be windy! And of course a windy day is not good for "close-up" photography! It wasn't until 9pm on the Friday night that we agreed to go ahead and do the feature the next day.

We met at Westhay Moor National Nature Reserve on the Somerset Levels and only a short drive from where I live. It was good to see Ross again and we had a chat on how the day would work.

The first target would be damselflies or dragonflies. Although I live close to Westhay I was not familiar with the best places to photograph damselflies or dragonflies. Luckily, Ross was. We headed to the best place a pond. The magazine feature explains what happened next but it doesn't tell the whole story. I was amazed at how much work Ross put into doing the article. Obviously, helping me with finding suitable subjects and then advising me on the where I was going wrong. On top of that Ross had to set up pictures of him advising me, me taking photographs and the area's we were photographing in. It certainly kept Ross fit as he had to use the timer on his Nikon.

Ross was always looking for the best and different ways to take photographs and I quickly realised that was why he was a professional and I wasn't. I had so much to learn and as well as the advice Ross was giving me, I was learning by watching Ross work.

While, at Westhay Ross asked me to move behind the mating pair of damselflies that made the magazine as the first challenge. I wondered why, but it soon became clear. Ross wanted to use my blue t-shirt as a background to the mating pair. It made a good shot, but the only way I could get the same shot was by taking off my t-shirt and ask Ross to hold it while I took some shots. It was a good job somebody didn't walk past us!

After, we had over 100 shots of the damselflies, we moved on to Shapwick National Nature Reserve and Ham Wall RSPB Nature Reserve. We drew blanks in both of these locations. There was a lack of dragonflies and butterflies. Ideally, Ross had wanted a dragonfly at one of these two locations. It was a disappointment as Westhay was alive with damselflies and dragonflies.

So I suggested my local patch along the Polden Hills. I knew butterflies would be there as I had been to the site only a couple of days before.

There we completed challenges two (six spot burnet moth) and challenge three (a mating pair of marbled whites).

I had a great day. We were out for over 9 hours and took over 300 photographs. I learnt how to use my camera better and how to improvise with LED lighting and the black side of a reflector. And so much more to learn!

Above is one photograph from the day using the black side of a reflector and some LED lighting. The result is stunning and one I would not have got without the help of Ross.

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