The workshop I was attending ended this morning. I had a great time, spent living, breathing, and talking about photography for 12-13 hours a day. Bruce is a fantastic person, and a great teacher to boot. Not only was he patient with all the questions that all of us had, but he didn’t mind talking about off-track topics or discussing stuff that wasn’t on the agenda. I think all six of us, two from Holland, one Croat, a German, an American-Irish woman, and me, were lucky not just to have the opportunity to learn from Bruce, but also from one another during these five days.
All six of us seemed to be on slightly different levels in terms of the art of photography, although not terribly far away from one another. We all shot at the same locations, but always with different results, sometimes strikingly so. It was great to see how each individual perceived and saw different things in the same scene, and patterns, lines, shapes, tones, textures – all seemed to become visible or invisible depending upon who you were. It was only afterwards during the review sessions that we’d see stuff that we’d been completely oblivious to just a few hours ago, standing right next to the person who made the image. I’m not sure if it is possible to learn how to see by watching other people, but it was quite revealing in terms of interpretation, personal viewing style and preferences.
There were many great things about the workshop, not the least being that I learnt things, which I didn’t know that I didn’t know! I think it’s easy to keep gathering a lot of theoretical knowledge but unless it is actually put into practice, it doesn’t teach you anything. Sitting at home in front of the computer and reading guides, tutorials, and seeing other photographers’ work can only go so far in teaching you the ins and outs of the art and craft of photography. Only by shooting regularly and identifying the strong and weak points in your images is it possible to really learn and progress. The simple fact that an experienced photographer, who is well versed in their medium of expression, is there to continuously review and critique your work is far more helpful than reading 50 guides. It can be a little difficult sometimes when stuff that you think is good is completely ignored during the critique, but it is also ultimately good because it teaches you how it is so easy to ignore the mistakes you’re making, and falling for the trap of being self-aggrandizing about your own images, whereas an outsider can look at it with complete objectivity, bringing their own experience, knowledge, and sensibilities to the table, and teaching you things about your work, and sometimes yourself, that are otherwise easily overlooked.
On the way back to Inverness from Ullapool this morning, I sat with Bruce at the front of the VW Transporter, which was our vehicle for getting around during the workshop, and it might just end up having been the most significant time that I spent in the whole five days of the workshop. It was very good to speak to someone on the other side, who could identify with a lot of things that I said, and could tell me so much about not just photography, but also life and the way we go through it, especially from multiple perspectives including, but not limited to, career path, overall balance, perspective, choices, and opportunities. I don’t know how it will affect what I do later, but he did give me lots of things to think about, and also helped me clear some things in my head that had so far been left unanswered, although if he reads this he might wonder what they were! Thanks Bruce, you’ve helped me in more ways than you know, and the last hour alone of talking with you was possibly worth the entire cost of the workshop to me.
Moving away from photography – I did have my first truly touristy day today in Inverness, which I spent walking around the city centre along with another workshop participant, while taking images of the buildings and roaming around with the sole objective of seeing most of the major attractions listed in the ‘Touristy things-to-do’ brochure. Inverness is probably the fastest-growing city in the UK, but the city centre is fairly tiny and easy to walk around. The weather was dull and wet when we reached the city centre around 11 in the morning, but it did clear up after 3, and again did a u-turn a couple of hours later. It was good fun hanging around with Barbara, and walking around the tiny streets of Inverness with her along was literally a laugh-riot. Contrary to our expectations, we were able to go around the city centre and view most of the places to be seen in less than an hour. Barbara eventually took a cab to her hotel around 4.30pm, and I made my way to the hostel I had identified, to sleep for the night.
Spent the last waking hours of the day figuring out what I’m going to do tomorrow, which, as it turns out, will be spent in Aberdeen. I had no idea of where to go, and the thought of going on a short tour around Inverness did make itself quite appealing for a while, but I was never fully into it, so it got beaten out of the contention zone soon. Deciding to go to Aberdeen was probably as much determined by the desire to see more of the east coast of Scotland as by the fact that I had only just heard of it earlier in the day when three of the workshop participants had made their way there by train to catch connecting flights to their countries later. So I’ll be in a train during mid-day and will probably spend my time just walking around and taking a hop-on hop-off bus, if I can. Again, some touristy stuff compared to the distinctly non-touristy 11 days I spent driving around the west coast before the workshop.