Monday, 25 October 2010

Our Beach to Mountain Weekend Experience

Anyone who has seen the photography on my blog would realise I am very much an enthusiastic amateur. I love taking photos but I know very little about the technical aspects.
I have a Canon 1000D which is an entry level DSLR and the kit lenses that came with it. (EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II and EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III.) Although I’ve had it for more than a year, I have never had the confidence to try anything other than the auto settings. I’ve never bought any extra lenses because the range that is available thoroughly confuses me.
My daughter had attended a Trekabout workshop a couple of years ago and loved it. Her confidence and photographic know-how increased tremendously. When I saw this workshop advertised, the opportunity to learn more about photography in a beautiful setting was just too tempting. The tutors, Michael and Mark are both accomplished nature photographers and the workshop would be a combination of informative talks, hands-on experience and one-to-one assistance. We both enrolled – a weekend away together doing something that we both enjoy – and hopefully we’ll learn a bit as well.

Saturday morning we rose very early and drove 150 kms to the Sunshine Coast to meet up with the group at 8 am.
Because we were both doing the course but only had the one DSLR we had brought one of our small point and shoot cameras with us as the second camera. When we showed our tutors, it was kindly suggested we should just share the Canon .
We met at Buderim Rainforest Park. There were twelve students. Three had been to previous workshops and were refreshing or honing their skill. Some of the students had a reasonable depth of knowledge but most were novices like us. Some had state-of-the art equipment worth megabucks. Others had quite basic cameras, like us. It didn’t seem to phase Michael and Mark. The workshop was geared to teaching you at your individual level.
After an introductory session where I learnt not only what ISO, depth of field and aperture meant, but which knobs and buttons on my camera control them and why they are important, I moved the dial from Auto to Av. I had never done that before. The first step was taken to a brave new world.

We set off through the rainforest to a waterfall to practice what we had just been taught. Time flew by… It seemed only moments and we were being told to head back for morning tea and the next session.

Because John and I were sharing one camera I had spent as much time standing around as I did taking shots, so by then I had decided that NEXT time we do this we will have a camera each. Maybe Santa would bring one?
After morning tea it was macro photography. I don’t have a macro lens so used my telephoto lens without and then with a 10x magnifying filter I had borrowed from a friend at work. I discovered “live view” and how to zoom in to manually focus on a subject. I discovered how to alter the depth of field. This was all amazing. The 10x filter increased the magnification significantly, but it reduces the clarity of the shot. Although it’s a cheap option and therefore tempting for a novice, it may not be the best way to go.

Macro photography is something I would love to get into so I’m asking Santa for a macro lens too.

After lunch we were shown some digital post-processing techniques using Picasa and Photoshop and Viveza. I’d been using Picasa for a while to upload and organise my shots and to do some minor editing, but still learnt some additional and valuable techniques. I’d never used Photoshop.

Mmmm – Santa, what do you think????

Then it was off to Point Cartwright to capture the ocean spilling onto rocks as the sun sets behind us.

We finished at about 6pm and picked up a takeaway meal and a bottle of wine on the way back to our unit. We had taken almost 200 shots, so had to empty the camera’s memory card into our netbook so we could fill it again the next day and recharge the camera’s battery. Maybe Santa could also fit in an spare battery and memory card as well????

Bed time was early. We had to be back at Point Cartwright at 4 a.m. the next morning ready to capture the sun rising over the ocean.
I fell in love with sunrise photography. The light was magic. I was getting used to the tripod (which also I had never used before either).

We were introduced to graduated filters and very slow shutter speeds which turned the water soft and milky.

As the sun rose we changed our ISO and used a fast shutter speed to catch the waves exploding over the rocks (hopefully catching the golden daylight behind them) and the light spilling on the rocks .
Again time flew. It was all over too soon. The sun was up. The soft light was replaced with bright harsh sunshine and it was only 6 am. Back to our unit to pack up and check out, down to Mooloolabah for breakfast and two cups of coffee each (We had been up before dawn). Back up the mountain to the rainforest by 8 am for bird photography. This was getting better and better.

 When we first arrived, we could hear birds in the trees and were amazed when Mark played a CD with the Eastern Yellow Robin’s call and one came down in response to the sound.

Once everyone had arrived, Michael gave us a quick tutorial on bird photography. This time we use the camera hand-held with auto-focus and with a fast shutter speed. He told us to always ensure the birds are as near to eye-level as possible and to focus on their eye.
Maybe there were too many people around or the birds were too shy, but although we could hear them, very few birds appeared and those that did remained high up in the trees.
“Never take a shot of a bird from underneath” Michael said. “You just get a bum shot” - so I tried it.
He was right - Not this fellow’s most attractive angle.

With my kit lens it was quite hard to zoom in on the birds. Maybe Santa could bring….OK, I’m asking too much now. I know. This photography thing could get out of hand if you let it.

After morning tea there was another session covering post-processing techniques. Michael and Mark told us about where to get the best deals on photographic equipment and tempted us with up-coming workshops they will be conducting.
It was time to head home.
We’d learnt so much.
Even though we took notes, it’s going to be hard to remember it all. Maybe another workshop ... next year.
This is Michael and Mark's website -


  1. Your photos are lovely. I hope Santa brings you all that you want for Christmas. For Christmas, I want that trip to Australia for the week in May that these guys are hosting. I went to their site, but did not see their fees. Really would love to see Australia through a camera lens.

  2. What a fascinating class you attended! I always thought your photography was wonderful before you took the class; now you'll be taking professional photos! I love the one with the waves breaking over the rocks in the early morning and the waterfall. I have to admit, I leave my camera on 'auto' far too much and don't experiment. Thank goodness for digital photography, though, at least we don't have to pay for the photos that don't suit us. I look forward to seeing what Santa brings you for Christmas.

  3. Terrific photos, sounds like you had a great weekend. I have the same camera as you and am just figuring stuff out. Love it too.

  4. Wow! Those are gorgeous photos! I like the bum shot too. Very funny. I am still using a Point and Shoot.

  5. Your photographs are gorgeous! So nice of you to visit and comment on my post!

  6. Thanks everyone - I did enjoy the weekend but I think I've got a long way to go to be a good photographer. Practice makes perfect - I hope.

  7. I am soooo jealous. I love taking photos of my garden for the blog. I think I will have to do a course too. Looking forward to visiting to check out your latest.

  8. Your images are beautiful. I hope Santa brings you all that you wanted!


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