The Sugar Pines - An afternoon at The Photo School

On Saturday, with a sore throat and achy ear, I headed up the stunning country road from our place to Tumbarumba to meet the clever Kate Berry and Peta Mazey from The Photo School. A local cafe Nest was celebrating a 5 year birthday hosting workshops by Whole Larder Love and a afternoon photo session run by Kate and Peta. I love Nest, and was so excited to discover it - good, good coffee (from these guys), seriously yummy food, cute cafe and beautiful smiling service. I'm beyond stoked to have a new 'local' in a little town up the road. Anyway, while I love Rohan's work, it was the location of the photo session and the chance to meet the talented ladies that really hooked me.

Half way between Tumba and Batlow is a little place called the Sugar Pine Walk. It's a little pocket of Sugar Pines, the tallest and largest pine, planted in 1928. The trees tower above you, and the straight rows create magical angles for photo after photo. One of the locals drew our attention to the 'doming' of the pine stumps left after some had been removed - the trees healed themselves over, the raw cuts no longer exposed. Apparently, this forest has the tallest specimens of Sugar Pines found anywhere, and this coupled with the technically impossible healing of the stumps, has led to the conclusion that the roots of the individual trees have touched and entwined under ground, making this more like a single organism, rather than a forest of individual trees. Plants are amazing, no? Stepping into the forest is like stepping into a cathedral. The carpet of pines deaden your foot steps, and there is a heavy hush in the air, even with 10 or so people chatting and snapping away. It's graceful and eerie at the same time. You can be sure I'll be back for another visit, especially if there happens to be a dusting of snow anytime soon.*

As for photos, well, I have approximately 25400 photos of the towering trees. The light was muted, the day was cloudy, so none of the 'pretty light time' that Kate is 'Insta-Famous' for...but gosh, it was still magical. I'm a pretty amateur photographer, and it was heartening to hear both Peta and Kate say they use their iPhones for the majority of their personal photography. That capturing the moment is more important than technical perfection. I'm re-inspired with taking photos on my phone now - and even more convinced I want to get a camera like this one, so that I can take it with me everywhere.

As far as 'big girl' cameras go though, here are some takes homes:

+ Shooting on manual is great. Shooting on Aperture Priority (AV on my Canon) is perfectly fine - free yourself up to focus on your subject and experience the process instead of fiddling with all the settings.

+ The rule of thirds is the number one rule. But, rules are made to be broken, and it's sometimes interesting to shoot in divisions of that, like half a third. Your eyes naturally fall on the points where the 'thirds grid' crosses, but this doesn't mean you can't capture an interesting photo if you bend this rule slightly.

+ ISO is important. 400 is a good all round speed.

+ A camera lens with faster aperture is less limiting - I tested my Sigma 35mm 1.4 lens and my Canon EF-S 10-22mm 3.5-4.5 lens out, and there was alot of difference in the photos (worth noting I haven't quite got the hang on the latter yet though!).

+ Look for leading lines in your composition - you want to draw people into your photo, give it depth, capture them, so they can't look away.

+ Look up - and lay on the ground.

+ Keep your horizon line straight (or at least edit it straight afterwards). No-one likes a wonky horizon!

+ Show perspective - placing a person/animal in amongst the trees immediately gave scale to their grandeur in the photos.

+ Light and shade create depth and interest in your photos. Don't be afraid of shadows in your frame.

+ Take as many photos as you like - but remember that some things can never be captured as you see them, and some things are just better experienced, rather than photographed.

The Photo School has workshops happening in Central Vic, Melbourne and Byron Bay in the coming months - if you are looking for some photo-taking inspiration and beautiful company, I highly recommend it.

* I just heard there's snow up there today - wondering if I can convince the husband to head up!