Booked as a birthday treat for Jake’s 11th the thought of trying to entertain a group of eleven year-olds for 6 hours on a canal boat, by teaching them some photographic tips, suddenly looked seriously daunting.
Fortunately, the clouds were kind and by the time 11 o’clock arrived the sun had put in an appearance and everyone boarded the boat in excited anticipation.
Nick Harbourne, my colleague from Canal & Tipi Experience was going to be piloting the boat as it navigated the seven locks between Aldermaston and Burghfield, on the Kennet and Avon Canal in West Berkshire, introduced the day by running through the safety and housekeeping rules.
Having met Jake’s mum and dad, Alison & John, they got the group together and I spent the first 20 minutes running through the basic photographic tips they would need for the day and making sure everyone understood how to use their cameras.
The first photo-opportunity came almost immediately, with the opening of a swing bridge carrying the main road; pictures were taken of the bridge opening, the barriers holding back the traffic and the canal boat making its way.
With so much going on it was difficult for the children to decide what to do first, take pictures or help open and close the bridge and it soon became obvious that the mix would have to be their decision.
Making our way through a boat-yard full of similar vessels to Meand’er the boat that was out home for today, plenty of pictures were taken and I spent my time talking about composition, exposure and how to get the right bits in focus. Explaining the way that light is controlled using the speed of the shutter to photograph moving objects and how the size of hole in the lens, or aperture, makes the difference between everything being in focus or just the single thing you want to concentrate on, took us to the first lock and the group split naturally to the ones who wanted to help open the lock and those who were happy to take pictures.
Having taken so many pictures in such a short time I decided we would have to review what the group had taken regularly throughout the day, and now between locks seemed to be a good moment.
Because of the variety of cameras and their ability to operate in non automatic modes, I’d made the decision at the outset not to confuse the issue by trying work in manual so the main theme of the day was composition, image framing and looking for pictures and using their imagination.
Viewing the pictures taken on the boat’s television gave everyone chance to comment and critique the photographer’s skills. The results were truly impressive and improved throughout the day.
As we made our way through the countryside Alison set the group a challenge, to get the best picture of a yellow flag iris on the river bank which she would judge at the end of the day.
With memory cards filling up rapidly and batteries flattening it was time for the group to get together in the lounge area of the boat and look at the day’s endeavours, enjoying ice-creams kindly provided by Alison.
Arriving at our destination I gave everyone a certificate to say they had learnt to take better photographs and they all said how much they had enjoyed the day.
Photographic days can be tailored for all abilities and are organised by Canal and Tipi Experience, so if you have small group of enthusiastic camera owners or photographers who would like to spend a day with a professional photographer or maybe just a birthday or anniversary party you can contact us .