As I packed up my camera gear in readiness for my day with Australian Photo Tours the following day, the rain was hammering on the roof and flooding the gutters. I felt a sense that the Melbourne weather may choose to be mean and sure enough, after a restless night, I awoke to continuing rain.
We left at 11.45am , my husband dropped me at Belgrave where I caught the train through to Flinders Street.
As the train made its way down the hill to the city the skies gradually began to clear, until, when I walked out of Flinders Street Station, I found Federation Square, or Fed Square as the Melburnians call it, bathed in sunshine.
I had allowed some extra time in case of train delays, but with no such delays, I was thrilled, when I saw a Mini Cooper Expo, that I had the time to take a good look at my favourite car. There was some real classics amongst the small collection as well as some brand new models to admire too.
Luckily, Craig, the course leader made himself nice and obvious and before long a group of some 25-30 camera wielding folks where gathered ready for the off.
By this time, my rain jacket was packed away in my back-pack and I was regretting not even thinking about sun lotion, I had joked with my husband that I should take my sun glasses, now I wished I had. It was getting bright and quite hot.
We started our tour by walking to the rear of Fed Square and our first topic to cover was that of Exposure. At this point I was glad I had spent the time revising the principles of exposure. Craig explained it clearly and with humour, but for me the next challenge was to use the buttons and setting on my Canon EOS550D correctly.
I struggled a little bit to know if I was achieving a good result, but I got a bit of help from a fellow participant, who seemed to be a complete whizz with his photography.
So we were 15 minutes into the course and I had already got my money’s worth, I had learned how to get the right exposure, I had learned how to use my camera correctly in full manual. I was liking this so far.
Our next stop was just down stairs from the first stop. We entered a dark under cover walk way. The topic here was the use of ISO and our aim was to get some correctly exposed shots by adjusting our ISO setting and not using the flash. Again, a great exercise to test the theory and become familiar with the camera.
From here we headed along by the Yarra River. The Yarra is known as the “upside down river” as it is always really muddy, as if the river bed is at the top. With so much rain of late, the Yarra was in full flow and with it came an alarming amount of tree debris and, sadly, rubbish.
We stopped under the shade of tree and here Craig introduced us to how aperture and shutter speed interrelate. We started by setting our cameras to ISO 200 and the aperture to f/5.6 then we had to photograph the floor, which was mostly shaded by the tree. The goal was to achieve the correct exposure by adjusting only the shutter speed. Then remaining at f/5.6 we photographed up into the sunlit canopy of the tree, again we had to adjust our shutter speed to obtain the correct exposure.
With that done, the criteria was changed. We set our cameras to a shutter speed of 1/125 sec and then shooting the floor then the tree canopy we had to adjust the aperture to obtain the correct exposure. I was getting the hang of the dials on my EOS at last.
With a short walk up a grassy knoll, we found ourselves looking at a fantastic vista of the city. And for the first time in ages I was loving seeing this amazing city sparkle in the sun against a beautiful blue sky.
Here we were introduced to the fact that the camera may indicate a correct exposure, but there will be times when under or over exposing will create a better shot. Craig explained about choosing an exposure for the highlights, and allowing the shade to add depth and mood to our shots.
So, we set about shooting the same shots from 2 stops under exposed through to 2 over exposed, this allowed us to see what can be achieved. On this bright sunny day I found being 1 stop under exposed gave me the desired shot, and a rich blue sky, whereas a correct exposure left the sky burned out.
That done, we walked the Birrarung Marr pedestrian bridge stopping at the Federation Bells. Our next topic was Aperture, we were set loose to take pictures that gave examples of the different depths of field, with differing ranges of focus.
I found it difficult to inspired with the area we were in, and confess to not really meeting the brief for this stop. I was not too concerned as playing with aperture is something that I do quite a bit, not always to great effect, but I am learning.
That done, we walked down to a main road near the park. It was time to play with the traffic!
Shutter speed was now the focus, we needed to capture a car clearly, then a car blurred and then finally we were introduced to panning. Panning is good fun, it took me a while to get the hang of it, but with some more practice it will be a good skill to have when looking to shoot more creative shots.
With shutter speed the priority, we had to use adjustments in aperture to get the shot exposure correct.
With our cameras slung around our necks and the sun starting to pinken our noses we took a short walk to pick up the City Circle Tram to our next location, Docklands.
The Webb Bridge is a photographer’s delight. From the architecture to the comings and goings of the local people, be it on foot, on bike, on blades, or just walking the dog.
Craig reminded us of the three elements of correct exposure and offered us advice about knowing the rules and how to break them for better creative effect. With that, he set us loose on the bridge, we were to put our days learning into practice. This was fun and my level of confidence in handling my camera was so much greater than prior to the tour.
Once done, we headed off to a river side bar for a cold beer and a quick critique of our work. As our day was focused on learning about creative exposure rather than creative composition the “oh that’s a nice shot” photographs were few, but I had one or two I was quite pleased with.
I said my goodbyes, and with some directions from a fellow participant I tried to make my way back to either Southern Cross or Flinders Street Station.
As I walked along by the river with the sun on my face, I felt a real love for Melbourne. So often I have been into the city and the weather has been biting cold and wet, and the city has looked so grey and miserable. Today it had a completely different feel, I saw a real beauty I hadn’t seen before, and I don’t think one pot of beer would give me beer goggles!
I followed the path as the lady had instructed, passing an older gentleman as I went. Then all of a sudden the pathway was fenced off! Oh poop, now where do I go?
The man seemed to be thinking the same as he approached from behind. “Let’s go this way he said.”, gesturing to the left. We did a U turn in the path and walked up some steps into a restaurant court yard and out the other side. This brought us to a covered walk way, I think maybe we were under a bridge.
The man was chatty and friendly, he asked if I was on holiday and seemed delighted when I said no, I was living in Australia. He, of course, asked the question nearly all Aussies ask, “Do you like Australia, will you be staying?”, I explained my love of the people here and that I would like to say this will be my home forever, but as my friends know, I have terribly itchy feet, time will tell.
Having asked me where I was heading the man gave me directions to get to Southern Cross Station. We parted ways with a hand shake, he sweetly said “I’m Noel and it’s been a pleasure meeting you.” I love Australians!
Walking back into the busier part of the city I was amazed by how often the air filled with the tropical fragrance of jasmine, it was beautiful, considering the traffic and the noise that comes with a city, it was the last thing I expected.
I arrived at the station with just a few minutes to wait for a train back to Belgrave.
I got comfortable on the train, iPod playing in my ears and with my camera hidden in my Back-Pack I took a quick look through my shots. It had been a great day, I had learned loads, I was now keen to keep my camera on Full Manual Mode, and it was all so enjoyable, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
I think I will pay another visit to the Nobelius Packing Shed this afternoon and retake my photo using my new knowledge and skills. It will be interesting to see the difference in the result.
*** Update ***
And here is the picture of the Nobelius Packing Shed using my new camera knowledge.