Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Iconic London : Photography Workshop

Two weekends ago, Andy and I completed our first London workshop in Introductory Digital Photography. It had been brass-Monkey weather throughout, but thankfully, no equipment froze or malfunction, only some very chilled fingers were the result. The group met on a chilly morning at the National Cafe in Trafalgar Square, a relaxed modern restaurant and friendly East-European waiters. We discussed camera handling and equipment over a hearty breakfast, then we were off to photograph the world!

I set everyone a mini-task, working on Themes as I always do. 'Iconic London' was the theme, and the camera its author. The participants could interpret this as they liked, within the given time frame, location and route. It was certainly a learning experience for a couple of people as they had just bought their cameras, or handle a digital SLR for the first time. Nevertheless, the scene before us offered great opportunities with experimentation, with different focal lengths, shutter speeds and apertures, creating new vistas and effects. As we were in the Westminster area, architecturally grand buildings, fountains, the Thames, and tourists and street performers gave us all the visual fodder for our cameras.

See the result from the group here, I think you'll be impressed.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Road Trip : Snapshots

Last weekend, I was on a road trip to Northern France, in the Region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Only a short 1 hour drive from the Calais tunnel to our destination, a small bed and breakfast in an even smaller hamlet called Heuchin. The period house now run by a British couple Richard and Vanessa deserves special mention.

The Maison de Plumes (House of Feathers) is a charming stand alone bungalow which has 4 distinctly themed rooms based around the 'plumes', and as you can guess, is wildly decorated with extraordinary detail for a b&b. 5-Stars I would say. The courteous hosts also serve up a 5 course 'gourmand' cuisine which is superb.

The snow was still on the ground as we drove towards the coastal resort of Le Touquet. Passing fields and fields of open snow-covered farmland in this stark countryside, I saw hundreds of windfarms generating renewable electricity. This region is known for its strong Westerly winds coming off the English Channel, and how I marvel at the French for utilising this form of clean energy harness. It was a majestic sight to see these giant windmills spinning in the distant horizon, and as you approach right beneath them, the sheer size and scale of each structure simply amazes.

Le Touquet is a quaint little Victorian resort with its magnificent shady tree-lined Boulevards and large mansions, befitting something from a 1960's Californian suburb. On the coastal edge, the town is lined with charming period buildings, mock Tudor-esque designs, steeples, mini-castles, palaces, and Hansel-n-Gretel cottages. All very strange, and a bit Disneyland. We stayed at the Novotel Spa hotel which is right on the water's edge, amidst the sand dunes and wind swept grasses. Basically a 80's prefab concrete box structure, it is nonetheless comfortable, equipped with a sea-water indoor spa pool with panoramic views of the sea.

This is low season for Le Touquet, and its easy to see why. The sea is at its roughest when the wind is blowing, and the high winds blow fine sand all over you, and surely, cannot be good for cars left out for long in the open. It is also freezing cold and wet. About 80% of the accommodation in town is closed or unoccupied. It would be very different here in the summer months. The stretch of open beach in front of the town plays host to windsailing competitions.