Today Sunday 7 October 2012, I supervised the second photography workshop at Victoria Baths. Eight participants were in attendance and the session started at 10am.
The main aim of the workshop is to give people the opportunity to take photographs of the inside of this amazing building, including some areas that are not normally open to the public. I am available to offer ‘over the shoulder’ feedback on photos and provide tips and information.
The eight who attended were mostly quite experienced in the use of digital SLR cameras. But there is always something new to learn, and at an event like this, you can learn from others, as well as from the tutor and often, the tutor learns as well!
We started in the Turkish Rest Room, that’s the large ground floor room with magnificent stained glass windows. The light was streaming in through the glass, casting pools of shimmering colour on the shiny floor.
Stained glass windows can be a tricky subject to photograph. If, as in a cathedral or church, they take up a small part of the frame, and the rest is dark, it will probably be necessary to under-expose by one or two stops as the camera’s auto-exposure is ‘fooled’ by the unusual light. Here, if the window fills the frame, then you might have to over-expose.
An important message I give in all my tutorials and workshops is that photography is all about managing levels of light and it is often necessary to tweak the brightness of an image either up or down by one, two, maybe even three or more stops. In Manual mode, to do this, you can simply adjust the aperture or shutter speed. In some of the Auto modes you can use Exposure Compensation control, in my opinion the fourth most important control on the camera. (You can ask me what are the first, second and third at an upcoming workshop!)
The participants soon started producing very good photographs of the windows. If you position yourself directly in front, you need to have the camera exactly horizontal. One photographer accomplished this with a spirit level on the camera.
Others photographed from the side, giving more diagonals in the composition. As I always say, horizontal and vertical lines give a more static effect, while diagonals give photos a more dynamic quality. I told one photographer I felt he needed to under-expose the photos a bit more as some areas of the image showing the flashing ‘over-exposed’ warning.
Today we were lucky to have photographic model Cat, and appropriate to the building, she was wearing a black bathing suit. The combination of Art Nouveau style windows and a model who has a distinctive 19th century / Pre-Raphaelite look provided excellent creative possibilities.
We also took some photographs in the room next door, with its beautiful tiles the colour of water. This gave the pictures a painterly quality which I love. I’m interested in paintings and the history of art and regularly visit Manchester Art Gallery and the Walker and Lady Lever, part of National Museums Liverpool.
While a few of us were photographing with the model, others explored the building, visiting the Gala Pool, Sports Hall, Female Pool, not to mention the magnificent entrance hall with its green tiles and sweeping staircase. An extreme wide angle lens is ideal for photographing this area.
We returned to the Turkish Rest Room where Andy Kilmartin took photos using his extreme wide angle lens (12mm). Last month he had taken a similar photograph and but I felt something was missing. This time model Cat was placed in the centre foreground, transforming the image exactly how I’d visualised.
It is difficult controlling light levels when the light is shining towards the camera from the windows. The only way to cope with this was to take a series of bracketed shots. For this Andy used Exposure Compensation at minus one, zero and plus one. The floor was freezing so we thanked the model for her excellent contribution and allowed her go and warm up again!
Today there was a Vintage Fair in the Sports Hall, which added an extra element of interest.
After refreshments in the cafe, we were given access to the flat on the top floor.
We had to ascend two flights of stairs and on the way up we discovered another gem of the baths, this amazing stained glass window at floor level.
On the top floor is the spacious apartment where the Superintendant used to live. Today it is empty and is a place of beautifully decaying walls with peeling paint, torn wallpaper and broken plasterwork, for me a fascinating photographic subject.
People appreciated the opportunity to visit and photograph these rooms which are normally closed to the public.
I have to say, everyone on the workshop was very impressed with my stereoscopic 3D camera, the Fuji Finepix W3. Most had not seen 3D photographs before and were amazed by the quality and impact of the photos I’d taken, viewed in 3D on the screen on the back of the camera, without the need for glasses. I told them that these days, I get far more excitement out of using the 3D camera than a conventional DSLR, particularly with subjects such as models and interiors.
It was nearly one o’clock it was time to finish, and so we made our way back down to the ground floor, taking one last look at that floor level stained glass window, which was casting a slightly different pattern of colours, as the sun had moved.
People had the option of staying on for the rest of the Open Day if they wanted to, as the admission fee was included in the price of the workshop. The admission fee was £15. The people who photographed the model made a contribution of £5 towards her fee. £20 for a three hour workshop including the use of a professional model, I call that very good value!
After a delicious lunch in the cafe, I made a quick visit to the Vintage Fair. I’ve always been keen on retro-style glamour and striking make-up, and so couldn’t resist photographing Bethany Jame Davies of the Vintage Beauty Parlour.
The final workshop on 4 November is already fully booked. Open Days recommence in April 2013. I look forward to meeting lots more people on the Victoria Baths photography workshop!
The following article appeared in the Manchester Evening News on 13 October 2012. It was written by journalist and broadcaster Eamonn O’Neal.