Chez l'abeille

Culture. Travel. Writing. My world in words and pictures

The Art of Observation


I bought my most recent camera, a Panasonic Lumix DMC GX7, in October before I headed off to Iceland. I wanted something that would take the pictures I could see and my long standing point and shoot just wasn’t cutting it any more. I thought I was fairly au fait with the workings of a SLR based camera, having used my beloved Pentax for years, but the ease of the totally automatic button has left me doing little more than, well, pointing and shooting.


The roof top gardener

So last Sunday morning I headed off through early morning London to meet my friend Kathy on the roof top of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. If you haven’t wandered up the yellow concrete stairs to this little urban oasis I heartily recommend it. Currently the South Bank Centre is running a series of Sunday photography workshops with photographer Ollie Smallwood – this was the reason for getting up early! Ollie has been photographing the garden and the team of volunteers who look after for a while now, which meant he was well placed to get the best out of our ideas.

The group was small so we had time to talk and share ideas, experiences and cameras, which ranged from mobile phones to high end digital SLRs! What I loved most was that we didn’t spend a lot of the 2 hours taking pictures, which might seem odd, but in the end made perfect sense.

Our first task was to walk around and simply look. We were encouraged to think carefuly about what we wanted to photograph before whipping our camera from pocket or bag. Freed from the view through a lense, I felt more able to focus and open to the nuances of the space around me and the endless possibilties for pictures there were.

“slow down and value each picture you take”

The mix of clay forms left over from school workshops and the different textures of the rusty barrow and plants intrigued me so I focused on this little out of the way spot. Task 2 was another challenge: photograph your image, but only three shots allowed! Again Ollie encouraged us to plan and think what we wanted to achieve before we pressed the button. This discipline was challenging but our pre-visualisation work really helped.

Task 3 had us thinking about depth of field and finally the camera came out of auto mode! With aperture priority set, Kathy and I took a quick wander around the wild flower meadow.

It was great seeing the different pictures everyone took, and I think the very best, a view of Big Ben, was taken on an iPhone, which proved the point of the session – great pictures are there for the taking. You just have to look for them.

There is one more workshop in the series on 31st July.

©Chez l’abeille  2016


2 thoughts on “The Art of Observation

  1. Amazing one

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  2. That sounds like a great workshop and very similar to the one I took in France a few summers ago where we totally slowed down and observed. Lovely shots!

    Liked by 1 person