Luxembourg Exposed — two day photo course

Luxembourg Grund – Panorama

Last weekend I took a two-day photography course with pro photographer Robin Jensen entitled Luxembourg Exposed. The timing of it was spot on really. I’d spent the last four or so weeks catching up on back episodes of The Digital Story podcast with Derrick Story and learned a great deal from that. I also ordered Derrick Story’s pocket handbook, although by the time it arrived, I already was familiar with most of the concepts from listening to the podcast. Besides that, I’ve been learning how to use Adobe’s Lightroom and trying to shoot some pictures on my Nikon D70s every day. In fact, you may have seen a few of them if you follow my Vox blog!

I got the newsletter informing me that the next semester of the Second Degree courses in Luxembourg was about to start and I had thought about taking either the photo 1 or photo 2 course (beginner, and intermediate to advanced) so I contacted the second degree people to ask if I could contact the tutors and ask for their guidance as to whether I could jump in to the second level course. I heard back from one of the tutors within a day and spoke to him about the photo 1 course. He went on to mention that, besides the photo 1 course, he also teaches a two-day intensive course over a weekend and that the next one was coming up shortly. Perfect! I could take that and then perhaps join the photo 2 course quite happily, or at least that was the idea anyway.

There were only three students in total. One had previously taken the photo 1 course with Robin and was looking for some practical work and consolidation; the other was a beginner.

The first day was spent discussing the basics and it was really great to have what I’d learned from podcasts consolidated and corroborated. We visited three of Luxembourg’s castles, two of which I’d visited numerous times and had taken photos of with my Minolta point-and-shoot, so it was interesting to compare results with the dSLR and some knowledge. We visited Larochette in the morning of the first day, had lunch there and then headed off to Beaufort and then Bourscheid (pictures were taken ages ago on my crappy point-and-shoot).

It was rather a chilly day and we were lucky that the forecast rain never appeared (although it had where we live, as I discovered when I got back).

Technically, day 1 was spent getting to grips with the basics of exposure, metering modes and depth of field; it was good to spend a whole day thinking only of that. I spent most of the day shooting in aperture priority mode and will probably continue to do that for a few weeks until I learn about what to choose and when.

Day 2 was spent in Luxembourg City, mainly down in the lower part of the city known as the Grund. The Alzette river flows through this part of town and it is the oldest part. Conditions were very different compared to day 1 – bright sunshine and warm. I switched from RAW to JPEG after a while as I was concerned that I would fill up my memory card if I didn’t, but I really wish I had kept to RAW mode. I’ve learned during my week of post-processing that RAW images offer a lot more latitude for adjusting exposure as well as white balance.

The first topic we covered on day 2 was composition. We looked at lines, patterns, shapes and discussed the rule of thirds, then spent a good hour shooting from one spot, looking down on the Grund from above where the view was really quite nice. The big advantage of this area in terms of composition were the roofs of the buildings down below. They offered an almost inexhaustible resource for finding shapes and lines and it was interesting to compare shots with the other two students at the end of the day and see shots that I didn’t see and vice versa. I did feel a bit limited by my 18–70mm lens and would have liked to have up to at least 200mm, but one should learn to do the best with what one has (sometimes I take only my 50mm prime lens out with me for this reason – it really changes the game).

After that, we went down and followed the river. Robin recently did an expo of reflection shots and this is one of his favourite subjects. The river down in the Grund is slow moving and offers a great opportunity for shooting reflections. I had a lot of fun doing that and came away with a few shots that I am really happy with.

Reflection

We also went into a church to talk about and try some flash photography, and I really got to discover the limitations of the pop-up flash on my D70s (horrible portraits). I also borrowed Robin’s macro lens and spent a lot of time shooting bees. It’s quite amazing what a different experience macro shooting is.

Buzz, buzz, buzz, I wonder why he does?

Towards the end of the day we found a quiet pub and compared our shots on Robin’s laptop. As I said, it was interesting to compare the different shots that we each saw and I can see why having a shooting partner could be so useful. The group was small and we all got on well and learned from each other. I’m hoping that we can meet again soon and go for another photoshoot together and keep on learning.

I didn’t actually sign up for the Photo 2 course after this, mainly because I feel that I need some time to process what I’ve learned and put it into practice for at least a few months. Besides, I can put the course money towards some of the new gear that I now need, such as a longer lens, an external flash and a tripod.

Gear wise, I really would have liked the Nikon 70–200mm f/2.8 VR lens but then I saw the price! Other options I guess are the 18–200mm VR lens, although it’s a variable aperture lens and I’m kind of put off by that. It’s all I can afford though! Flash wise, I’ll see if I can pick up an SB-600 (or maybe the SB-800 when I’m going through airports on my way to the USA in a couple of weeks.) For the tripod, it’s a bit of a minefield really. I’m presently working my way through the back episodes of the Image Doctors podcast (past of Nikonians.org) and hoping that they cover tripods in one of the episodes.

For the time being, I’ll keep taking the camera out with me when I can and practising taking shots.

I had fun processing the shots in Lightroom and put together a web gallery of selected shots from the weekend. Enjoy!

PHOTO GALLERY