12 October 2011

Histograms, duct tape and dental floss

What on earth do histograms, duct tape and dental floss have in common? Apart from anything else, all three came up in conversation with our photography tutor, Jonathan Chritchley, at our first briefing in Soustons yesterday.

OK, let's start at the beginning! I love travel, I love France and I enjoy photography. So when I discovered you can combine all three loves in one place - I didn't hesitate. Courses selected, flights booked, and six months later, here I am in a part of France I've never been to, arriving late Sunday night at Dax railway station.

Less than 24 hours later, the two other participants in the course and I have gathered in the lounge of the stunning Domaine de Bellegarde to talk to Jonathan and find out just what we'll be up to this week. I'm not good at early mornings - but seems you need to sacrifice some things to get the best light and the best atmosphere. Fortunately here on the south-west coast of France in October, early morning means 7.30, not 5.30. That's a relief. The forecast for this week is just fantastic - cool nights and warm, sunny days of 23-25 celsius. Even better, if there's no wind, we can expect lots of mist and fog over the areas close to the coast.

So, back to our first chat with Jonathan. Seems like we all have different gear and different experiences, but some common goals. We want to improve the way we see and photograph the world. We want to be able to communicate what we feel through our images.

But seeing something and being able to capture it are two very different things - and that's where the histograms come in. It's a funny little graph thing that you can call up on your camera and if you've got the exposure on your shot right (or at least good enough) then the histogram will basically tell you that. You just have to know where to find it and how to interpret it.

So that's our homework. Work out where and how you can find the histogram function on your camera and be ready to use it first thing in the morning.

And duct tape? The other woman in our group, Tiggy, is tough on her gear. She has already been on one of Jonathan's courses earlier this year, where she damaged her camera body. Wrapping it up in duct  tape meant she could continue and finish the course - with virtually no impact on the images she shot during the rest of the course.

Of course, that tale lead to other helpful traveller hints. It seems in our security-conscious era when sharp objects are something of a no-no for air travel, that dental floss can also be a traveller's best friend. Cutting a tomato? Need to sew on a button? Dental floss is far more useful than its maker's original intention!

So two photo shoots down, and an editing session later this afternoon. Histograms are now my best friend. And I'll keep working on the rest.

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