A Day with James Abbott

For Christmas 2019 my OH bought me an 8 hour session with James Abbott. If you pick up any of the UK’s Photorgaphy magazines you will have come across images from James. They are exciting, artistic, often almost menacing, and always leaving you wishing you could do similar.

Covid-19 killed any chance of the event happening in 2020, and I had more or less resigned myself to the day not happening, because there is always a time limit on these events, usually a year, and we were way passed that before we could even begin to arrange a date.

However I emailed James, to see if the event was still on, and he said – “Definetely Yes. He was, is, honouring every session booked before Covid. As far as he was concerned Covid caused a postponement, that’s all’

James picked three sites for us to visit during the day:

  • Ely – Early Afternoon, hopefulloy with bight sunshine
  • Hunstanton Cliffs – Early evening, hopefully with the sun on cliffs
  • The Wash – Golden hour and sunset.

James took me through a number of techniques such as using the ND Filters to slow/blur motion (As in the images of the rocks & wreck in the sea), polarizers to reduce glare, and also to adjust temperature (Example to the two images of the ‘quote’ shaped pool in the Wash. Same shot, different colour bais due to polarizing filter). He also took me through the ideas on framing, light, perspective, composition. And finally post-processing techiques such as HDR (Note difference in the cloud detail of the two images of the Rocks in the sea. One is taken with the exposure correct for the rocks – the skydetail is lost. The second is a composite of two images, one image exposed correctly for the rocks, the other exposed correctly for the sky. By combining the two you get a much improved image). Finally using post-processing to completely change a image’s effect. The contrast on the portrait image of the multiple pools was wound right up to expose the glow in the mud/sand, the texture around the pools and the detail in the clouds.

All in all – a great day.

Pointers from James:

  1. Images of tall builds. Close-up from the gound might work, but you will get distrotion with a wide angled lens, and the straights will not be straight. Instead try a Zoom lens from as far back as possible.
  2. Always try to get something interesting in the foregroud. Even if its just moring ring and some concrete.
  3. If an image is busy, zoom in to loose the distractions. You will loose part of what you thought was the main subject, but the end result will be a better picture.
  4. Use Live-view (Mirrorless) to get unusual angles. Insisting on using the view finder means you are restricting yourself to those positions/contortions you get your body into. And the older you get the harder they become.
  5. Use as wide an angled lens as you can for Lanscapes, it gives an improved Foreground : Background effect.
  6. Set the Focus at the half-way point in the second loop of the Infinity symbol. Improves sharpness on the Foreground.
  7. Use a polariser, not just to remove glare but also to move the temperature of the shot towards cool. (Even though the filter may be Neutral Density – the polarizing effect with cause a blue shift.)
  8. Use bracketing to generate multiple images than can be combined to get better detail across the whole scene (HDR)
  9. Use ND Stop filters to allow longer time shots – generates that Milky Silk effect on water.
  10. Always take your tripod.