On Assignment With David Perry

One of the highlights of our trip to Seattle was the photography workshop kindly provided by David Perry. I've followed his blog for a number of years and from that know he's extremely talented and just how passionate he is about his subject. Here he's giving us our initial introduction at the start of our visit to the Bloedel Reserve - in the pouring rain, hence the slightly fuzzy shot.

Guess what's in the paper bag?...No Idea?...

...it was a mirror - chosen to illustrate our first key point of the day: the most important element of taking a picture is ourselves. Each one of us is unique. This affects the way we see the world and ultimately the pictures we choose to take.
I hope David doesn't mind I've scanned his Fling handout into here. Apologies for the state of it, but a wet day in the Reserve, plus travelling thousands of miles hasn't kept it in a pristine condition. You can click to enlarge if necessary - there are some really good points on there which apply to any photography trip.

There were so many of us, David actually took 3 workshops. We were booked on the second, so having had our introductory talk, we headed out into the Reserve with our Assignment sheet, ready to find and capture the stories to tell the tale of our day.

It was rather romantic and fun to imagine ourselves as hotshot photographers ready to take pictures for a magazine. It also gave us an insight into David's regular work.

Then I learned my second key lesson for the day. Never go anywhere without spare batteries. Mine were running out within 20 minutes of starting our assignment. Luckily I had the next best thing: NAH with his camera, which I could snatch off him from on a regular basis when I saw a picture I wanted to take!

The Bloedel Reserve is the most wonderful of places, even on a wet day so there was no problem in finding stories and pictures to flesh them out.That's why I've put together a whole 'magazine cover' full of them in response to the assignment :)

Our main workshop session was after lunch, and David proved to be a humorous and clear teacher. His skill is being able to find a few key points which will help make all the difference to his audience. He also asked us what we'd like covered in the session. I requested breaking the rules, someone else about avoiding the cliche. I'll cover both of these in another post.

Here's what David had to say about equipment:
  • A miniature umbrella fixed onto the camera is ideal for protecting it during bad weather and acts as a handle helping to keep the camera steady
  • Don't buy a tripod from a photography shop. Very robust ones are available from Sears (US department store) for a fraction of the price. I'm hoping to find the equivalent over here
  • Use a flexible kitchen cutting board as a light diffuser - helps to even out the light on a subject
And his key general hints and tips about photography:
  • Get to know your camera well so you work with it, not fight it
  • For portraits - shoot into the sun so the subject is backlit and highlighted. This also ensures the lighting isn't flat
  • Step away from your camera's Auto facility. Use Programme and the +/- feature to under or overexpose shots when needed. Remember: the camera is 'programmed' to try and get everything 18% grey (including white), so playing around with the exposure ensures your pictures show their true colours
  • Don't be afraid to experiment and break 'the rules'. This is much easier nowadays with digital cameras rather than film
  • Above all else have fun and get out there and play!
We were moaning about the weather and David told us a miserable day is a great one for garden photography. The lighting is even for scenes and is good for bringing out greens. It can add atmosphere to a place. Having spent the day in the rain I can see his point - the story told might be different to the one originally envisaged, but decent shots were found. Of course it helps by taking them in a place like the Bloedel Reserve.

As well as the three workshops, David was so generous with his time and gave everyone who wanted one a mini critique of their work. NAH thoroughly enjoyed the workshop too, despite us having to take pictures of plants and we often discuss what we learnt on the day when we're out together with our cameras.


  1. Really interesting post! Thanks.

  2. It's interesting - this about it being easier to break the rules with a digital camera than with an old fashioned one.

    I've found the opposite - though much is to do with learning all the options and I clearly haven't 'got there' yet! I liked the control available with a very basic SLR and a dark room. Apart from anything else, with digital cameras and modern printers, there's so much that can go wrong at the printing stage.

    I've been trying to buy a printer recently. I'm so keen to find a good one, I've been prepared to go beyond my usual price range. Still haven't found one I like the look of. One of the things that puts me off is the ability some have to 'correct' mistakes in the original capture. I expect it's possible to turn this off but it's annoying that instead of leaving you to be creative (which doesn't need to be anything fancy, just photographing the world as you see it) manufacturers are determined to step in to rescue you (ie spoil the picture and obliterate any originality).

    I recently bought the very basic version of Photoshop and, even there, as soon as you go onto the lighting bit, it leaps in to do what it thinks best - and I have to change it back to what I want!

    It must have been really good to have the input you were given in Seattle and to be able, not only to learn from David, but to compare notes with other photographers.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this and learning from it. Thank you. About this part: "Use a flexible kitchen cutting board as a light diffuser - helps to even out the light on a subject" ...will certainly give that a try for some of my garden shots.

  4. Charlotte - thanks, I hope you find it useful :)

    Lucy - I think he meant easier as in you can take loads of pictures without having to worry about using up all your film. You also have almost instant analysis as you can look at the shot straight afterwards (not that that's foolproof of course!)

    I really miss my darkroom - I loved the magic of the picture appearing in the developing tray. I can't get on with tools like Photoshop at all. Probably just as well I prefer 'straight' photography.

    David's workshop was one of the highligts of the holiday :D

    Gardeningbren - it's a really useful tip as is having shiny white paper handy if you need to bounce light back into picture if needed

  5. David's workshop was fab. He's incredibly generous with his information and encouragement.

  6. What a wonderful way to bring a smile to this fella's face. Thank you for your kind and generous post, VP. You've made my day, and it is still early.

  7. that WAS a great day/great workshop. Thanks for the fine review and blog post.

  8. VP, It was a great workshop and I appreciate your recap! I missed using the flexible cuttingboard and am going to use mine from now on! xogail

  9. VP, it was a magical day for me. Our friend Mr. Perry was part of that, encouraging me to look at what I saw in a different way.

  10. Sounds a most informative day. Will definitely have to visit David's website.

  11. Helen - it was an amazing day :)

    David - you are more than welcome! You were so generous with your time, teaching, ideas and encouragement. The fact that NAH and I discuss what we learned from you so many months after the workshop is testament to how good it was :D

    Mary Ann - welcome! And many thanks for all your works on the Fling organisation :)

    Gail - it's a great tip and so easy to carry! I'm glad I have the blog to write all of this up so I can come back for reminders from time to time :)

    Cindy - you're so right. I'm certainly seeing rainy days in gardens as an opportunity nowadays. You of course won't have that problem in Texas ;)

    Anna - it's well worth it. What David is doing with an iPhone camera (not the best of cameras) is amazing and illustrates perfectly his point that it's the photographer that counts, not the quality of the camera


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