The next step – photography course (final part)

The beginners’ course of Prof Gert Lamprecht was concluded in November 2011 with the evaluation of our photos taken during the course by a senior Bloemfontein Camera Club member. During the beginners’ course I was exposed for the first time to post-processing of photos using Photoshop. And what a disaster it was. My main goal with the beginners’ course was to master the basic principles of photography as taught by Prof Gert. And he did an excellent job and I’ve learned a lot. My secondary goal was to learn using Photoshop in the post-processing of photos. Before entering the beginners’ course, my wife assisted me with the post-processing procedures as she was very familiar with Photoshop. WOW, did I struggle with Photoshop!!! To such an extent that in October 2011 I decided to stop using Photoshop and continue using Capture NX2 (Nikon’s software for post-processing). Nothing to do with Prof Gert and his beginners’ course –  just me and the fact that I just could not get my head around the many functions of Photoshop and how to use/apply them effectively. Photoshop was just too complicated for me. Just look at this:

(Nikon D7000 camera with Nikon 70 x 200mmf2.8 lens @ 168mm, 1/2000, ISO400, f2.8, exposure = -0.33, Aperture mode, on tripod, 1.4meters from flowers)

But I decided not to surrender. So, immediately after the beginners’ course, I decided to enter Prof Gerts’  spes course. And I am sure you can quest the reason for me entering the spes course. Yes, to overcome my fear for Photoshop. My wife has just completed her first spes course with Prof Gert which is also a 6 months course. So she decided to join me entering the spes course for a second time. There were even two other colleagues joining the spes course for the third time.

The spes course is a more specialised course looking at various aspects of photography and post-processing techniques building on the principles taught in the beginners’ course. Not one spes course is the same as there are just too many aspects to address. Also a fewer practical sessions are arranged – not like in the beginners’ class where a practical session/shoot was arranged every Saturday morning. The practical sessions of the spes course consist usually of a weekend or a few days away to a certain location or just a shooting opportunity locally. But every Wednesday you are expected to submit a few photos taken during a practical session or a few photos of your own developed according to a specific post-processing technique for discussion. The following are some of the topics covered during the course. We were not able to attend all the sessions as we were on holiday in Kgalagadi T. Park and Namibia for 3 weeks.

The first assignment was a specific post-processing procedure to follow and putting a copyright on the photo. Nice introduction to Photoshop for me again – the first assignment being a Photoshop exercise:

(Nikon D3S camera with Nikon 600mmf4 lens, 1/1600, ISO1600, f9, exposure = 0, Aperture mode, on safari during Duba Plains trip)

(Nikon D7000 camera with Nikon 18 x 200mmf3.5 lens @ 40mm, 1/13, ISO100, f149, exposure = 0, Aperture mode, trip to the Cederberge)

Our first practical session was a shoot in a studio – two models were arranged and the one shoot was a nude model. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately) we signed a contract stating that we would not use/publish the nude photos. But still – my first experience shooting in a studio with real model – what an experience. Afterwards I thought that maybe I must stay with my nature/wildlife photography – for you to judge. Just a pair of my dressed model photos – I’ve received a few salon acceptances for both photos:

(Nikon D700 camera with Nikon 70 x 200mmf2.8 lens @ 70mm, 1/80, ISO200, f8, exposure = 0, Aperture mode)

(Nikon D700 camera with Nikon 70 x 200mmf2.8 lens @ 130mm, 1/60, ISO200, f8, exposure = 0, Aperture mode)

Next we played again with Photoshop for a few weeks and I was getting more comfortable using it:

Adding a light beam (in the Cederberge): 

Playing around with the exposure (in the Kgalagadi T. park):

 Adding a star brush (in a professional studio):

Adding rain and/or snow (in the Cederberge):

Our next practical session was at a spa and we needed to take photos of the spa for them to use it in a competition. This was really not my scene and I’ve struggled to get proper photos. Luckily for the “professional” amongst us – so I did not submit any photos for discussions.

Next up was a weekend away (visit to the nature reserve near Aldam) – my first ever fist to the park and an interesting experience. I was feeling very comfortable back in the field and with nature photography. All of a sudden I realise that after the beginner’s course, I do have more to think about before taking any photos. All the principles taught by Prof Gert came back to me as I was driving along the dam looking at the possible photos. Everything was slowly coming together. Also, for the first time I’ve tried my hand at some landscape photography as well:

(I was very lucky (and waited very patiently) to get a photo of this Jacobin cuckoo in flight but I must admit – it took a lot of skill to get it right)

I must admit – for the next assignment (another Photoshop exercise) I could not manage to get photo together. My wife tried to help but I was so frustrated with myself it almost ended in disaster. No more about it – let it pass by. By now Prof Gert was pushing my abilities with Photoshop to the limit but I manage to “construct” the following photo using some Photoshop tools for the next assignment:

The next Photoshop assignment was much easier and I even did enjoy the exercise. I do not know if it is my style but what the x@#&%, let us give it a try:

(In the southern part of Namibia near NamibRand nature reserve)

(Next two photos – a view from a house in Kolmanskop, Namibia)

Our next assignment was a real challenge but I think I passed it. Playing with a light beam and/or a flash. Unfortunately I do not have a flash – so I tried to play around with an ordinary flashlight. Hey, I even got a salon acceptance for the last photo (submitted to national salon in the Pictorial section):

Next up was an assignment that needed a team effort between me and the wife – “A glass of wine with a twist”:

Our last weekend away was organised to be a trip to Witsand between Griekwastad and Groblershoop. Unfortunately something unexpectedly happened (I am still not sure what) and the group decided rather to go the Mokala National Park for the weekend. Johan Kotze and I decided to still go to Witsand and I was so glad we stayed with the original decision (my wife was overseas and did not join us on the trip). Once again, my first visit to this area and I did enjoy the experience. I also submitted some the photos to a salon – awaiting the outcome thereof:

(Sunset over the dunes)

(On the dunes on Witsand)

(Sunrise over Witsand)

(Sunset behind the mountains)

(The photo is called: A piece in time)

(A small spotted genet visited us at the chalet during the night)

Just to summarise my experience with the beginners’ and spes course:

Prof Gert has a very relax approach within his course to photography making it very easy to follow and understand the principles. He was so relaxed that during one spes course, one student did not even submit one photo and he did not mind. Just as long as one learns something about photography during the course of the 6 months. However, I did use the opportunities to get some great photos along the line, submitted some of the photos to salons and got some acceptances. Once again, it is up to you what you are going to achieve throughout the course. One must remember that the purpose of the course is not for Prof Gert to teach you how to pull the trigger –   that is up to you (to go out and take a photos). But he is defintely around with his skills and experiences to motivate you to go out and practise taking different types of photos.

What make his courses so valuable are the practical approach and the fact that he is willing to share all his experiences (“the faults he made during his 50 years in photography” as he called it) with us. Nothing is kept a secret or being done behind the scenes (?screens). We all shared our experiences and that made the course even more special for me.

This spes course was a really a great experience and I would recommend it anyone who is really interested in photography. After the two courses I do feel part of this big happy photography Lamprecht family. You are really missing out on something special if you decide not to join (by now) the extended Lamprecht family.

And just to thank the extended Lamprecht family for their support over the past year – it was a wonderful experience. A special photo to all of you – taken during our recent trip on Lou Coetzer’s photography boot on the Chobe River. Just a kiss to say good bye:

Now it is down to some serious business and photos – keep following this blog and see what I can come up with.

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