Lessons on the art of the photograph

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iol travel dec 2 The use of different camera settings and photoshop can create incredible effects with running water

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Different camera settings, with Photoshop, can create incredible effects.

Durban - I have been bitten by the photography bug. That much is clear after I recently attended an introductory three-day Africa Imagery photographic workshop in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.

Hosted by renowned wildlife photographer Roger de la Harpe and his wife, Pat, the comprehensive weekend course covered numerous theoretical and practical components that left me with an affinity for photography that had previously been bubbling under the surface.

After immersing ourselves in the basic principles of photography, image composition and camera controls on day one, my mind kept wandering back to these key elements even as I headed to bed that evening.

And the next day, a mental check accompanied my morning coffee to ensure that this new-found knowledge hadn’t disappeared with the previous night’s dreams.

Thankfully, though, ever-patient Roger – who has more than 25 years of photography experience – did not tire of repeating himself and he regularly recapped the most important aspects as we ventured out to the Karkloof Falls to put some of what we had learnt into practice.

After we wound our way through towering pine plantations, the distinctive rumble of the falls eventually heralded our arrival, and like children in a candy shop, our small group of budding photographers excitedly rushed to find prime position at the edge of the valley.

iol travel dec 2 Karkloof Falls

Karkloof Falls

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Starting out at the smaller Woodhouse Falls, we used different camera settings to enable us to capture “soft and fluffy” waterfall images, while at the other end of the spectrum we were able to seemingly freeze the water droplets in mid-air.

After mastering this mind-boggling art, we then explored the pristine surroundings – the burbling Karkloof River, cattle grazing on the nearby hilltops, and an array of bright flowers offering a host of photographic opportunities.

A large part of the workshop included image analysis, which involved a thorough review of the photos and provided a valuable platform for reflection and correction.

Roger demonstrated the advantages and effects that can be created through the careful use of Photoshop – which has the ability to transform your images from good to great.

“The computer has become the new darkroom,” Roger explained. “When you take a photo nowadays, that is just the start, there is still so much you can do afterwards.”

Yet most important is the need to follow some basic principles to capture the best picture possible, and these guidelines quickly and completely changed the way I now view taking photographs.

iol travel dec 2 Roger de la Harpe shows his 'students' how it's done

Roger de la Harpe shows his students how it is done.

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“Everyone has the potential to take great pics,” Roger commented. “It’s so rewarding to work with new beginners and get them going on the right track before they develop some bad habits.”

On the final day of our workshop, a model joined us at the Farm Fairfell just outside Howick. We could then experiment with different lighting and various vantage points to create the best portrait photographs.

Over the three-day course it quickly became apparent that fancy cameras and elaborate equipment are not required to produce high-quality results, and as Roger said: “Knowing how to shoot a sharp, correctly composed image is far more important.”

Roger and Pat, who have produced 26 wildlife books between them, also run various photo safaris at different destinations in Southern Africa.

“It’s a wonderful moment when you see someone suddenly develop the knack for photography during our workshops,” Roger reflected. “It’s not about competition or getting too complicated, but rather about providing the foundation for personal growth.”

For more information on the Africa Imagery photographic service run by Roger and Pat, go to www.africaimagery.com. - Saturday Star

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