Are you intimidated and really rather ignorant? What a lovely title for this!

On the course
The Living Lens Venue
The Living Lens Venue
Late last night I made it home from the ‘Living Lens’ photography course on the edge of Snowdonia in Wales. I am absolutely knackered but smiling big time. I don’t want to be at my desk this morning. I want to be out taking photographs.

Have you ever sat and looked at photographs in magazines and the like and wished you could do that too?

One of the reasons I never learnt how to do more than the basics with my SLR is that I’m always busy and another, is that all the jargon baffled me. Read a manual and I’d be bogged down within minutes. Go on line and watch YouTube films and read how too’s and within minutes of the same ilk I’d find my brain turning itself off. Good friends didn’t succeed with me either. Even if I felt as if I had understood some things, a few days later I’d be back at zero again. Nothing had stuck.

Busy with all the things either the road was demanding of me, or everyday life, I carried on grabbing snap shots. I had self-taught myself a bit about photo editing too but I kept asking myself why my edited shots looked as if I could do better.

Amidst the jumble of life and work things to achieve, I kept seeing posts and promo from Simon and Lisa Thomas about their ‘Living Lens’ photography courses.

They niggled at me. What is the point on having a great camera and not letting all its photographic ‘singing and dancing’ abilities come to life? What is the point of being in places of sheer beauty, fun and fascination and not being able to share, or simply sit back later and re-live the magic via quality photos? Why was I letting my camera’s abilities intimidate me? My hand kept on hovering over the booking button, but then I’d get distracted…

Friends went on the course and came back raving about it…

I had to do something about my ignorance. The fact that I know Simon and Lisa well enough to know that they are really talented photographers, great teachers and fun to be with, spurred me into action, finally.

Before I talk about the course itself, I will mention the accommodation and the food that the package includes. I slept in a wonderfully kitted out shepherds hut on one of the most comfortable mattresses I’ve ever crashed out on. And the food, simply excellent with most of the ingredients coming from farmers, butchers, fishmongers and bakers just a few miles away; some of the best of Wales on a plate. But onwards…

I have to admit that I was rather nervous going into the course. Would I be the photographic idiot I felt I was, but this time in a group setting?

There are various courses at several levels by the way and this means that you can slot yourself into a course that is aimed at you.

I’d booked in on a starter course and I’m so glad I did. Within the next days I realised just how little I knew, but the warm, friendly and informed tutelage of Simon and Lisa dealt with my shortcomings.

On this course they explained how to use the likes of ISO, shutter speed, aperture, bracketing, different lens possibilities, tripods and so much more. And they did so with excellent timing. I feared I was going to feel like I was on an uncomfortable intake overload for the duration of the course. Not with these two.

Their teaching style is fun and even eye-wateringly mad at times. The breaks are well spaced and I knew that they were adapting these to our group’s needs. That is just part of what being excellent tutors is all about. It was never a ‘them and us’ situation. Always us. One of the special things is that they never talked down to us but they shared their knowledge in a way that novices could understand. The groups are never more than 12 people so the instructor to student ratio is great.

Something else I really liked about the course was the lack of jargon. I sometimes think that too many skilled photographers let jargon and acronyms get in the way. I too often feel that I’m listening to some form of bastardised Klingon! Not with these two. For sure they discussed the ‘language’ we see others using, but they talked to us in such a way that lightbulb moments were happening regularly around the class; thankfully me included. I now know how not to be fumble-fingered, slow and clumsy with the settings on my camera.

I was interested to see how they would deal with a variety of cameras being used. It really helped that I’d taken a pre-course request seriously. Become more familiar with the locations of the non-automatic knobs and buttons on my camera, before turning up at the class. However Simon and Lisa were keen to make sure that I knew it was their job to teach me how to use them!

Heading to photoshoot
Heading to photoshoot
Another point of note is the locations Simon and Lisa have discovered to be able to put the classroom work into action. There’s no point, for the likes of me, to sit in a class and take on board information and to not use it straight away. Who was it that said ‘learning is doing’?

They have hunted out waterfalls, castles, and some really rugged landscapes. Not so easy to find locations where new knowledge can be put into practice, where there is parking for perhaps 5 cars and no other people to get in the way. I’m impressed. I also liked the busy beach and pier they took us too; a complete contrast and full of possibilities.

Scooter Rally day
Scooter Rally day
Editing? This is another section of photography that has the potential to be mind boggling but not with these two explaining. I’m not going to say more on this section of the course, other than it is fascinating and actually, if it’s explained properly to you, it’s great fun to do. Is editing rather fake? Um, no. Think of it as putting a thin but tasty layer of icing on top of a well baked cake. If the ingredients of the cake itself are naff…

I’ve written a lot. You can always tell when I’ve been totally enthused; I talk or write a lot. The ‘Living Lens’ courses are there to teach us what sort of photographic magic can be created, and how to do so. I have no doubt that it did this for all on this course.

The Welsh Coastline
The Welsh Coastline
You’ll remember I said a bunch of friends have been on the courses since they started up, and feel the same way too.

I can’t recommend this course highly enough. The venue, the locations, Simon and Lisa’s knowledge, their ability to describe, their sage advice, the pace in the class environment, their humour and much more.

Fantastic fun
Fantastic fun
I wish I had been able to do this course before I went travelling. My photos would have been far better than acceptable, and the fun of photography would have been greatly enhanced.

Whether you are a complete novice, intermediate or skilled, Simon and Lisa’s ‘Living Lens’ courses are a great opportunity for you to expand your abilities significantly. And to have fun while doing so. The next course is from June 30th. Book via this link. You’ll be very happy you did!!

I will be signing up for the next stages of courses. I want to practice this stack of no longer intimidating knowledge first.

Sail boards
Sail boards
I might have to bunk off early today. I feel the need to get out and play with my camera…

Thank you Simon and Lisa!

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