This is the third course I’ve been on with Andy, and I have to say that it more than lived up to expectations.
To be truthful I don’t usually write reviews on courses I go on, but this one prompted me to write something in order to share my experiences.
But before I get into the thick of this review, lets be clear that Andy hasn’t asked me to write this, and to be fair he doesn’t need a review to adorn his website in order to promote his work because the quality of his courses keeps on bringing people back. The courses he runs sell themselves.
So, this was course number three for me with Andy, and I’m looking forward to course number four later in 2018. What makes me keep going back?
Well you see Andy has one of those rare talents that as well as being a highly talented wildlife photographer, he can actually get on well with people. He’s easy to talk to, he looks after those who go on his courses, and nothing is too much trouble for him.
Believe me when I say that I have been on courses run by other highly talented photographers, but they sometimes lack basic empathy with their clients, making the courses seem very sterile and ‘by the numbers’. They lack the human touch.
This is where Andy excels. Going on one of his courses is like going out with a friend; a friend who makes sure there’s always a flask of tea and plenty of chocolate to hand!
Andy takes time to explain the subject you’ll be photographing that day, explaining the habits of the creature in question, its location and environment, and what you can expect from the day based on climate and terrain. If there’s one thing you can be sure of with Andy he gives advice on gear and kit before you turn up on one of his courses, so nothing is a surprise.
Some photographers who run courses spend time taking photographs themselves. Sure, Andy will take a few snaps too, but while out on location it’s about you and making sure you’re getting the shots you want, and you are learning how to get the best settings from your kit to ensure the shots you get are as close to perfect as possible.
In this way Andy is a great teacher; patient and a wonderful communicator. I myself have learn’t so much from him technically, even when thinking I have a particular way of photographing sussed, I learn something new.
And lets not forget the locations. I have to say that even getting to some of the locations to photograph a particular subject is a great experience in itself. But then again, this is Scotland, and you’d have to have no soul not to be held in awe at some of the landscapes you’ll find yourself in. Again, Andy knows his way around really well, so getting to photo shoots is easy and stress free.
Of course getting to some locations requires a bit of walking, and depending on the time of year, this could be through inclement weather, while you’ve got a load of kit to take with you. Andy doesn’t rush anyone, and takes into account their physical capabilities before heading off, and makes sure everyone takes regular breaks while on route. This way you find that you arrive at the chosen location ready to start taking photos straight away, and not trying to get your breath back as you collapse to the ground, exhausted from a long trek up the side of a mountain. Believe me, this does make a difference to the quality of shots you will get.
It's not all about the pictures. Welfare of your photography subject for the day is paramount, and as such Andy is a keen advocate of decent fieldcraft techniques. Any animal or bird being photographed should not be disturbed or interrupted in its daily actives. Getting in close enough to get the photograph without causing the animal distress or fear is what its all about.
The mountain hare in the shot below got used to us over the time we were with it, never flinching or looking to run away. Over time we worked our way closer to it, again not looking to disturb it. We got our photos and left, with the hare in the same location as when we first found it.
And what about those shots? I have to admit that I come away from Andy’s courses with full memory cards and spend many a pleasurable hour sorting though what I have captured when I get home. Given the quality of the shoots, and Andy’s tuition its hard to trash too many of the shots, and choosing any one shot that stands out form the others is tricky too, such is the quality of the photographs that you will get. While out Andy is frequently checking the quality of your photographs and giving help and guidance where needed so you can get the best possible shots.
In short I would recommend Andy’s courses to anyone serious about learning more about wildlife photography, both in terms of photography technique and fieldcraft. Trust me, you can’t go wrong.
Here's the link to Andy's website: http://www.andyhoward.co.uk
To see some of the photographs I got from this course, follow this link. Thanks for reading.