MY MASTER SERIES PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP ON THE ISLE OF ARRAN 2017: READ ALL ABOUT IT!
In March 2017, I had the pleasure to lead a great group of three participants for my Master Series Photography Workshop on the Isle of Arran. The Isle of Arran, a small island in the Firth of Clyde, is a geological wonder and a paradise for landscape photographers. Divided in two by the Highland Boundary Fault, Arran has been called “Scotland in miniature” due to the variety of landscapes it presents, offering Highland-like landscapes in the north of the Isle contrasting with the Lowlands in the south. A rich history, witnessed by pre-historic remains and medieval castles, together with a warm hospitality, complete the picture, making the intimate, beautiful landscapes of the Isle of Arran a long-time favourite of mine.
Designing all my Workshops, I aim to choose locations that aren’t only are beautiful and photogenic, but unique as well, both in their aspect and in the photographic challenges they present (see VIERI BOTTAZZINI WORKSHOPS for details). More, I always look for locations off the usual touristic routes, where the group can work in peace without finding themselves surrounded by dozens of other photographers: during our week on the Isle of Arran we never met another photographer, let alone another group, which made a great experience even better.
Mid-March is a great time to be on Arran: the weather is generally mild, but it can be surprising at times. In March 2017, quite exceptionally for the period, we have been caught by a snowstorm on our first morning outing; a storm which, despite making us miss one sunrise, had the great added bonus of making the landscape extremely beautiful and even more interesting during the following days. Photographing the hills over Glen Sannox sprinkled with snow was amazing, and the melting snow turned burns into rivers and made small waterfalls look like miniature Niagara Falls: I never cease to be astonished by how quickly and profoundly the weather can modify and change the Scottish landscape.
Artistically speaking, it is very important to me to choose locations presenting photographic challenges varying in complexity and type: Arran’s landscapes, due to their unique character and thanks to their mix of grand vistas and smaller, intimate scenery, are perfect for this. This way, during the course of a Workshop I can help participants to face and solve a wide range of photographic problems, from finding successful compositions even where they aren’t immediately evident, to putting the available light to the best use even when it’s not apparently that good. To do so, before the start of each session in the field, I always give a short briefing to present the group with the session’s challenges and offer general suggestions on how to solve them. During each session, I then walk around to offer specific suggestions to each participant, to answer any questions one might have and to show my approach to the location through my images.
Their very limited attendance aside, a very important feature of my Master Series Workshops is the opportunity to revisit some of the locations. Thanks to this unique opportunity, during our Workshop on the Isle of Arran I could use our post-processing and image analysis sessions to point out things that could have been done differently, proposing alternative solutions to compositional problems; solutions that participants could then try out in practice when revisiting a location. Once more, on Arran as well I have been very happy to see both how participants’ confidence increased and how their work improved significantly when revisiting a location. As it often happens, during this Workshop I was fascinated by noticing how different people reacted to different locations, and by how everyone “sees” differently. Helping participants unveil and photograph the beauty of a particular landscape even when it’s not immediately evident to them is very rewarding for me, and it definitely is one of the things making my job constantly new and interesting.
Technically speaking, all participants in my The Isle of Arran Photography Workshop 2017 were very accomplished photographers; some brought to Arran equipment that was relatively new to them, either cameras or filters, and this gave us the chance to discover the potential of their new gear together. Besides mastering their new equipment, participants had plenty of time to delve into artistic matters and explore advanced techniques such as the expressive use of long exposures and filters. As always, I brought along a full set of 100mm Formatt-Hitech Firecrest filters (Grad NDs, solid NDs and polariser), making them available to all participants to experiment with; an opportunity they all took advantage of, to different degrees of course. Once more, I was extremely impressed to see how the discovery of the potential of filters changed their photographing experience for the best, helping them push their creativity to a whole different level.
Last, but definitely not least, is the human aspect, which for me is of the outmost importance. I love teaching and have been doing it for a quarter of a century now; however, while I love working with people I know far too well how easy it is for just one less congenial person to ruin the atmosphere of a whole group. During my Isle of Arran Photography Workshops 2017 we have been very fortunate to work with three perfect gentlemen, with the added bonus of having a lot of fun together as well. I have been extremely pleased to meet all our participants and to work together with each of them: as one participant told me in an email received after the Workshop, “I feel we departed as comrades in photography as well as friendship”. Participants’ satisfaction is my first priority, and receiving such comments is for me the most convincing sign that the Workshop has been a success.
Due to my love for the beautiful and charming Isle of Arran, I was extremely happy to see that both my The Isle of Arran 2018 Workshops got sold out very quickly after announcement, and I am looking forward to welcoming more photographers to the Isle on years to come:
If you want an even more exclusive, tailor-made Workshop experience, you can book a Workshop One-on-One on the Isle of Arran completely designed around your level and requirements, running when you want, for as many days as you want and with a program made just for you:
THE PARTICIPANTS’ IMAGES AND COMMENTS
Participants in my The Isle of Arran Photography Workshops graciously sent me a few images each for me to share here with you, together with a few words of comment to the Workshop. Enjoy the great work they did on Arran and see what they had to say about our work together!
As usual, I asked all participants to complete a rigorously anonymous survey to let me know what they thought about the Workshop they just attended. The survey covered everything from the technical and artistic quality of teaching to the instructor’s availability both in the field and during our post-processing sessions, from the quality of the vehicle and driving to the choice and ease of reach of the locations, and more. I am very happy to say that feedback on Arran has been extremely positive, the highest yet with a level of satisfaction of 99.5% overall. More importantly, all questions about organization’s quality, Workshop’s overall satisfaction and about whether participants would recommend it to others got a resounding 100% YES answer.
What convinced me about the success of this Workshop more than any survey, though, was seeing some of the participants booking my 2018 Workshops right after coming back home from Arran. In particular, two gentlemen will join me for two weeks One-on-One Workshop in Italy in the fall of 2018, and one gentleman liked Arran and the Workshop so much that he came back with me in March 2018 for one more Workshop on the Isle! This for me is not just the best confirmation of the quality of the work done, but the ultimate motivator to keep improving further. Thank you!
FOLLOW-UP: THE FACEBOOK GROUP
Once my The Isle of Arran Photography Workshop 2017 ended, I added all Facebook-using participants to my VIERI BOTTAZZINI WORKSHOPS Facebook group. This is a closed group dedicated to my Workshop participants to share their work and keep working both with me and between themselves on developing and post-processing their photographs. Despite the differences in level between participants, the different locations visited and the different will to share images, the group seems to be working pretty well: most participants are using it and are profiting from it, keeping improving on the work we started together in such different locations around the World.
Thanks for reading this post; I hope you enjoyed this summary of my Master Series Isle of Arran Photography Workshops 2017! Why don’t you share it with your friends, or drop me a comment to let me know how you feel about this?
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Photographs kindly offered by Zeynep Paftali have been shot with FujiFilm XS-1 and iPhone 6 SE.
Photographs kindly offered by the Workshop’s participants have been shot with Sony equipment (Scott Heaton and Michael Rollins).