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Wiltshire Monochrome and Infrared Workshop Review

Posted on 14th July, 2021

Wiltshire Monochrome and Infrared Workshop Review

Standing in front of a group of expectant faces, all looking forward to our first workshop since October, I’m feeling a bit nervous. After an 8-month break, can I remember how to run a workshop? This is a specialist mono and infrared course and have I remembered everything we need? Infrared filters? IR-converted cameras to loan to participants? Spare sets of Lee Filters? Powerpoint presentation for the location guide?…. Luckily, there are lots of familiar - and even a few friendly(!) - faces in the group, which helps calm me down.

‘Welcome to Swindon, everyone.’ Not the most dynamic of beginnings, but… hang on a minute… What? Where? Swindon? Who on earth runs a landscape photography workshop in Swindon?

Well, we did and it turns out that it was an excellent base for what we wanted to do. There are lots of superb locations just a short drive away, including Avebury, the Cherhill White Horse, Martinsell Hill and Roundway Hill - all of which are fantastic subjects for black and white infrared. In fact, Wiltshire, with its ancient history and air of mystery is bursting with locations crying out for this treatment.

One of the most surprising locations was the closest one to our base - Lydiard Park, which is something of an oasis in amongst the urban sprawl of Swindon. With its Palladian house, and surrounding grounds home to mature trees and a lake, it was an ideal location for infrared photography and a perfect way for those new to the genre to ease their way in. Everyone came away with quality shots, having had the chance to experiment both with IR filters and converted cameras. We spent the whole of our first afternoon there and could quite happily have stayed longer, but we needed to get back to the hotel to check in and have dinner before our evening shoot at Cherhill.

Getting up a 3.00 a.m. is never easy but it was necessary to get to our dawn shoot at Martinsell Hill on Day 2. And it was certainly worth the effort, as we were rewarded with impressive skies and a touch of mist in the Vale of Pewsey below. With more than just a hint of pink in the clouds, some photographers couldn’t resist switching to colour, but others remained faithful to black and white.

The rest of the day was spent shooting around the Marlborough Downs area. After a promising early start, the sky clouded over  and with little direct sunlight, conditions were less than ideal for infrared. This was disappointing, but things brightened up for the final shoot of the workshop, at Roundway Hill, near Devizes. Roundway Hill is wonderfully photogenic - the site of an iron age hill fort, with wonderful contours in the hill sides, beech trees on the ridge and stunning panoramic views to the north and west. The low sun was ideal for highlighting the rolling hills and textures in the landscape and meant the foliage translated perfectly to infrared.

The combination of superb conditions and and a beautiful location meant that most participants agreed that it was their favourite shoot and it was certainly a great way to end the location-based part of the workshop. As the sunset colour faded from the sky, we hurried back to the hotel for a well-earned pint.

One day my prints will come

The third and final day was dedicated to processing and printing images. We started the day at a much more civilised time, having decided against a dawn shoot, so that participants would be fresh for Adrian’s sessions. As always, Adrian managed to get across a huge amount of information with admirable clarity. Before too long, laptops were fired up and the room was filled with ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahhhs’ as photographers examined their shots. Everyone was able to print 3 images, choosing from a wide range of papers and it’s fair to say that there were some impressive prints on display by the end of the afternoon; I’m sure we could have organised a very successful exhibition as a result.

This was our first black and white / infrared workshop and judging by participants’ reactions - several were so enthused by infrared that they were already scouring the internet for converted bodies before the workshop had finished - it was a success. But above all, it was just wonderful to be able to run a workshop after all this time and so good to catch up with so many of our regular clients - as well as meet one new one!

We’ll definitely be running this workshop again next year, so keep an eye on the website for details.