Lottie Gross takes her DSLR to the Forest of Dean to learn how to take great travel pictures in beautiful but challenging surroundings.
I met my photography teacher, David Broadbent, at the edge of the Severn Estuary, where an ugly mix of sand and grey water reached out to the horizon and two nuclear power stations, one defunct and one working, gave the view an industrial skyline. Not what I had in mind for a stunning photography location in the Forest of Dean – I'd pictured rolling hills dotted with sheep and farmhouses, smoke billowing from chimneys and crops of green and yellow making a patchwork across the landscape. But it was actually here, among the soggy sands and droopy autumnal trees, that I learned my first and most valuable lesson in travel photography.
Lesson one: patience and persistence are key
Unsure of where to point my lens on this grey, cloudy morning, I stood and humoured David as he raved so passionately about the trials and tribulations of teaching photography. On reflection, he was likely humouring me – while we faced the empty estuary and he ran me through some basic technical skills, the sun began fighting through the cloud-cover, and as its rays hit the shallow waters beneath us all I could say was “wow”.
Image © Lottie Gross
I raised my camera to my face, applied the technical tools I’d just learned, and took at least 20 pictures. David fell silent as we photographed, and after just a few minutes the sun shied away again. It was grey once more, but we looked at each other and he shot me a knowing look, as if to say, “see? There can be beauty in anything, you just have to wait for it.” He was right, we’d waited for 15 minutes and were rewarded with an ethereal light show on the Severn at low tide.
Lesson two: experimentation leads to great pictures
During the time we waited by the estuary David dropped another valuable lesson into conversation: there are no rules in photography. “People bash relentlessly about this ‘rule of thirds’, and yes, it works for some things, but sometimes it can be boring and you end up with a lot of samey-looking photographs.” He encouraged me to experiment and not stick to any rules I’d heard or been taught previously – the key to getting great photographs isn’t already knowing what looks good, it’s being willing to experiment in order to find out. Using my Canon 600D and 18-105mm lens I zoomed in and out, moved up and down, went from landscape to portrait, and took pictures of anything and everything from all angles I could.