Last weekend, I attendied an autumnal woodland photography workshop run by Leeds-based nature photographer, Paul Miguel.
When I used to work at the RSPB Fairburn Ings reserve between Leeds and Selby a few years ago, I met Paul as he ran workshops on the site. This year, we regained contact and Paul invited me to his workshop to learn how to use my camera to capture landscape compositions in a woodland setting.
Taking photographs of woodland is something I have always found challenging. What looks great to the eye never shows when I capture what I see with a lens. It’s one of the reasons The Thrifty Magpies Nest has few photos of the woodland I live in.
Paul took Linda – the other person attending the day course – and I to Skipton Castle Wood for the day. The light was (apparently?) poor for photography yet the air was still and the colours, rich. It was lovely to get out and enjoy the seasonal weather which was made even better by spending it with two other people who share my love for birds and all wildlife. Linda, who runs birding for beginners courses all over the country, has a keen ear for bird song. Periodically, she would name-drop a bird she could hear nearby. My ears pricked up when she said she heard a kingfisher. We were lucky enough to spot one later on in the afternoon.
I have owned my Canon E350D for 12 years. It’s an old piece of kit yet I know it is still capable of taking good photographs. I only own the one kit lens that came with the camera. Kindly, my next door neighbour lent me her zoom lens for the day. The main downside to my camera is the size of the display; it’s so small making it difficult to see whether a photo is in focus. It’s not until the photos are displayed on my laptop that I can see whether they actually look good.
The first lesson of the day was how to adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed to take the ideal shot of a landscape. This was followed by identifying compositions and assessing the layouts of our photos.
Next, we took macro photographs by zooming in on close objects such as moss, leaves and fungi. I found getting all the subject in focus quite tricky yet the effect is rather good.
We then photographed steps leading down a woodland path. My shutter speed was set to 8 seconds meaning it captured an unexpected mountain biker as he flew down the steps, in front of the camera’s view. I love the result; all of the woodland in focus with the biker blurred, showing his speed. It’s quite artistic!
Paul Miguel is clearly passionate about photography and wildlife. He’s enthusiastic yet very calm and patient while he teaches. I like the fact that he didn’t whip out his super-good camera as soon as we arrived on location. Instead, he spent time assessing our own camera makes then advising how to use them, while keeping his camera packed away so as to avoid intimidating us or making us feel our kit is inadequate. Paul is also constructive with his advice; he will look at your composition and advise you on how to improve the photograph.
The last focus of the day was moving water. We headed down the steps we had just photographed and set up by the weir. Paul explained how to adjust the settings to get the classic milky water effect. I was very keen to understand how to do this properly as I haven’t been successful with taking this sort of photo before. I enjoyed learning from Paul how to alter the settings of the camera to capture either smoother water or water with more motion. I am so pleased with the results.
I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Miguel’s woodland photography workshop and I am very pleased with how my photographs turned out. I now intend to keep practising what I have learned so that I can take better pictures of our woodland.
If you are interested in one of Paul’s photography workshops, visit his website here for the next available dates.