I’ve been running the Victoria Baths Photography Workshop for a few years now and have welcomed a large number of people, ranging from complete beginners in photography to highly experienced professional photographers. The age range is very wide as well, from teenagers to octogenarians.
Every time I run the workshop, I see something in the Baths that I’ve not seen before – not with my own eyes but through the camera viewfinders of the people on the workshop.
The aim of the workshop is to give people the opportunity to photograph this amazing building. I’m on hand to chat to people, giving tips where needed and also asking questions. There’s no formal instruction due to the widely differing levels of the participants.
I normally chat individually to each person on the workshop for ten minutes or so. There are normally between 7 and 10 people attending.
I always look through the photos on each person’s camera screen to gain an idea of what they have been photographing. I give positive feedback and suggestions for improvement. I also look at photos and say things like: ‘Wow, I wish I’d taken that!’ and ‘You’re very talented, aren’t you?’ or perhaps ‘That’s incredible, look at this everybody!’
I’ll also give them a task to complete, for instance making use of exposure compensation and asking them to do a series of bracketed shots to show me later.
The workshop that took place on Sunday 9 June followed the usual format: Start at 10am in the Turkish Baths rest area, by the magnificent stained glass window. Participants then go and explore the building. I chat to each one individually. We then meet at 12pm to go up the ‘secret’ staircase to the abandoned rooms at the top of the building. After 30-40 minutes we return to the ground floor and go to the canteen to chat.
This time I found some of the photos taken by the participants to be so impressive, I decided to do a write-up and showcase their photographs.
So here is a selection of images, sent in by people. I asked them to pick out three of their best images, particularly the ones I had praised on the day. I chose two images for each photographer who got back to me, and what follows is my critique of the photos.
This photo by Emily Pickering of a light switch and torn wallpaper really captures the atmosphere of the abandoned rooms on the top floor, which we always visit on the Victoria Baths Photography Workshop. She has caught the textures and details very well. She has placed the switch in the lower right of the frame, leaving room to display the wallpaper layers, patterns and colours at the top of the image.
Emily Pickering has captured the stained glass windows superbly in this image. Very often, with stained glass, you have to underexpose the image in order to make sure the colours look saturated. The camera’s exposure meter will often photograph coloured stained glass wrongly. Often it makes the glass too light. By making use of the Exposure Compensation setting on the camera, Emily has achieved the ideal exposure – not too dark and not too light. The viewpoint, from slightly to one side, gives a hint of spontaneity.
Maggie Malyszko took this excellent shot of the ‘sunrise’ window on the stairs. She has adopted a different viewpoint from most. She is looking from behind the staircase through the gap, giving a sense of an observer. This viewpoint creates an unusual pattern and composition in the image. The strong verticals and dark tones give a sense of mystery and atmosphere.
Maggie Malyszko’s photo of the door and corridor is another superbly composed image. She has placed the part-open door in just the right position so that we can see through it, and so that the door at the far end of the corridor falls inside the middle pane of glass. Having a foreground element like this placed at the front gives a sense of depth. The textures of the wood, the shiny tiles and the marks on the out of focus windows give extra visual interest. She has placed the light on the wall in the upper left exactly inside the curve in the door. Great composition!
Richard Waldock created this very enigmatic image in the abandoned rooms at the top of the building. Eventually these rooms will be converted into apartments though at the time of writing – June 2019 – this is still a long way off. In the meantime the peeling ceilings and torn wallpaper will continue to fascinate visiting photographers on the Victoria Baths Photography Workshop. What’s disturbing about the image is that it looks almost as if there is a human form under the dark blanket. Lighting and composition are very good.
Chris Currie has adopted an unusual viewpoint for this shot of the bath in the abandoned rooms. He has reduced the composition down to two areas of grey wall at the top and the white of the bath in the lower part, with taps, holes and stained sides. The wide angle lens has magnified the edges of the bath. It’s as if we are sitting in it ourselves, (though thankfully no legs are visible, unlike in those ‘me on the beach’ photos!). Of all the photos taken of that bath I’ve never seen one quite like this! All credit is due to the photographer!
This image by Chris Currie shows that simply by adopting a different viewpoint, you can create an image that’s unique and with a lot of visual impact. He has re-interpreted the angel in the stained glass windows by moving to a low position and looking upwards. The shallow depth of field has made the stained glass out of focus in the upper and lower parts of the image. This works well as it adds a sense of depth, and the out of focus effect is visually pleasing.
Richard Waldock took this photograph on the stairs near the main entrance. In any other building, the question in the viewer’s mind might be: ‘What made him take that photo?’ but in the Victoria Baths, every inch of the building is photogenic. The hand rail takes a zig zag path from top left to bottom right, and the reflections in the shiny green tiles are pleasing to the eye.
Laura Gritti took this photo in the abandoned rooms on the top floor. In this part of the building, objects lie on the floor for no apparent reason and can be used as subject matter for photography. Here a section of pipe and a meter provide an interesting focus, lit up by the direct sunlight through the windows, which cast a pattern on the floor. It’s a well composed image and quite enigmatic.
Laura Gritti took this shot of the Gala pool, looking across towards the changing cubicles and the balcony above. She has placed the ‘water 4 and a half feet deep’ sign on the left and just passing underneath, a man walking towards the right. She has used a slow shutter speed – I would estimate about one quarter of a second. The image is well composed with almost perfect horizontals. The picture is mostly static, but the moving figure provides a dynamic element. She pressed the shutter at just the right moment, when the guy was just in front of one of the red and white striped curtains. A great example of ‘le moment juste’ – the right moment – to press the shutter.
All in all I was very impressed with the photographs taken by this group. Every photographer who enters the Victoria Baths comes away with something unique, something memorable. This is a building that likes having its photo taken!
If you’d like to come on the Victoria Baths Photography Workshop, just get in contact with me directly and I will reserve a place for you.