Friday, 24 February 2017

West Cork Photography Breaks - Young success

For many children, these past couple of weeks have been the school half-term holidays, with many kids either complaining of boredom or spending their whole time glued to assorted gaming or video screens. It was during a half-term last week, that I ran a special and early West Cork Photography Breaks workshop. No boredom encountered here and indeed, one student had reason to be extra happy. Why would that be? After only four days of beginning to learn the art of photography, this young lad became a published photographer!

At just 7 and three-quarters years old (yes, that three-quarters is important at his age although his birthday isn't far off) Sam was my youngest and most inexperienced photographer to come along and take in the new (to him) sights of West Cork. Indeed, so new was it, it was his first time to travel on a ferry, his first time to Ireland, his first time being able to visit beaches AND his first time to pick up a camera. To date, he had snapped a few selfies on his tablet he used to play games on but to start to understand what makes a picture began the day he arrived at WCPB HQ.

Without too much thought, he was snapping away on his tablet, taking pictures of those around him, until a passing suggestion was made.
"Do you focus on the eyes?"
He happened to be left to his own devices for a while and when I returned I was greeted with,
"Look! I have taken a picture of Bullseye* I set him up on the table and focused on his eyes"
(*Bullseye is his 15" tall soft toy of the horse from Toy Story, which currently travels everywhere with him)
Wow! this kid was quick and I had just the perfect camera I could offer him to use in his little hands, in the form of an Olympus E-M10 + 14-42mm pancake lens. He didn't take too much persuading, and with the camera set to auto, as it was his first experience, we set off to the beach in search of new things.

He soon learnt how to hold the camera and how to focus, and he snapped away on each new thing he saw - barnacles, limpets, seaweed...and we all encounter things for the first time at some point. At one end of the beach we came across a piece of driftwood, this flotsam covered in something I had myself, only encountered a few years before on a West Cork beach. Getting into the swing of things by now, I suggested Sam should get down to a lower viewpoint. With an air of confidence, he laid down and rattled off a couple of shots (whilst I snapped him at work!)

Returning back to the house, he was keen to look over my shoulder as I loaded the results of his snapping onto my laptop. I was impressed! Sam clearly had an eye for a picture and had captured a great shot of these strange creatures, which he identified himself by looking up and comparing pictures in a super book by Maya Plass - RSPB Handbook of the Seashore
We later used the same really comprehensive book to identify his other 'finds' too. (More of those in the next blog)

Gooseneck barnacles - Lepas anatifera (Yes, he learnt that living things also have Latin names too, even if he couldn't get his tongue around some of them!) These were what he had found, probably washed up a few days before as they were no longer alive, unlike the live examples I had found back in 2011.

As with all of my West Cork Photography Breaks workshops, I encourage the students to select a favourite image from the first two days, which, on the Monday morning, is prepared and sent to the local newspaper, The Southern Star. This is then considered for their 'Reader's Picture of the Week' slot, with the possible accolade of becoming published, and winning a canvas print too.
...Roll on to Thursday, publication day, and I dashed into the local shop to turn down the corner of the newspaper to reveal the picture on the back page.
'Fist pump'
My novice photographer had impressed the editor, and I was so delighted for him.
How many of his school friends could go back to school with such a great 'what I did in my holidays' story to tell!

West Cork Photography Breaks runs for 4 weekends in the spring** and again for four weekend in the autumn.

**Sadly due to unforseen circumstances, the spring series has had to be cancelled.
However, the autumn weekends are still going ahead as scheduled...with the autumn being peak season for whale watching (subject to weather conditions)


  1. What a delight he must have been to work with - great picture.

    1. Thanks Su
      It really was a thoroughly enjoyable workshop. It's great when kids discover something new that absorbs them, particularly when facing the new is often a worrying experience.


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