Swarming to Westonbirt

Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire provided a beautiful backdrop for an autumnal Foto-Buzz gathering. I’m not 100% sure what the collective noun for a group of Foto-Buzzers is, but I have some memory that in the past it’s been described as a swarm, so we’ll stick with that.

The swarm, and some partners, met on a beautifully crisp morning. This wasn’t a workshop, just a chance to socialise, enjoy a day taking some photos, and then in the evening have a meal together at a nearby hotel. Thank you to everyone who made to the event.

I realise the location wasn’t perfect for everyone, but we’ll look at another opportunity in the spring and I hope some of you who weren’t able to make this one, will be able to come along then. There’s no doubt that turning our ‘virtual’ photo club into a real one – even if it’s just for a day – is always fun and enjoyable.

Conditions at Westonbirt were ‘interesting’. This is the photographer’s euphemism for changeable and at times tricky. We started with cloudless blue skies and very bright sunshine, and finished with unexpected periods of heavy rain. We’d hoped for more autumn colour than was on show, but there were patches here and there to work with. Of course, with a large and amazing collection of trees from around the world, there were also many opportunities for interesting textures and various colour combinations.

Just to give everyone something to aim during the day, I set a little challenge to get a shot that had both hot & cold colours in it. As a reminder, colours in the red, orange, and yellow zones are hot, and cool colours are those in the green, blue, and purple areas. To be fair, there wasn’t a huge amount of purple about, but plenty of shades of orange, and lots of greens too. Here are images produced by the Foto-Buzzers, along with a little comment from me on each one. No winners or losers here – it was just an interesting exercise in shooting to a theme and everyone passed with flying ‘colours’.

Graham Ainge
AJ says: Graham’s gone for a real riot of colours from a clutch of maple leaves and yes, we have reds, yellows, and greens all mixing together so it works really well. The darker areas also act as border to push our attention more to the middle and that burst of colour. Top shot, Graham.

Christine Bennett
AJ says: No arguments on hitting the brief from Christine. The two maples are glowing hot against the cooler greens of the grass and the trees in the background. She’s upped the creativity by using a slower shutter speed to capture the sudden downpour, with the rain particularly noticeable against the darker tree. Rain doesn’t stop play for Christine.

Kim Taylor
AJ says: As I suspected she would, the creative brain of Kim Taylor has come up with something unique. We have some intentional camera movement (ICM) on leaves on the ground, then some Photoshop work with layering and opacity. The result is an abstract mélange of colours, both cool and hot. Different and intriguing.

Mark Bannister
AJ says: A classic and well-spotted hot/cold combination here from Mark. Excellent control of depth of field also makes the red leaf really stand out in the frame. The slightly soaked appearance just adds to the overall atmosphere of the shot that just scream autumn.

Liz Stagg
AJ says: I love that Liz has looked for something different to leaves. This bridge has warm light falling on its boards (that were a bit slippery at times) that sweep us round beautifully to the cooler green trees and that hint of cool blue sky too. Well spotted, Liz.

Jayne Gough
AJ says: More creativity from Jayne Gough, with what looks (possibly) like some kind of ICM effect. The red of the leaves – that to my eyes almost look like a bunch of cherries – really pops out against the lime-green backdrop. Love it.

Paula Hillier
AJ says: A gorgeous image from Paula, with wonderful ‘bokeh’ in the background. The backlit red leaves are almost glowing, and the muted-green backdrop is definitely rocking the cool/hot combo. Excellent effort.

Perry Andrews
AJ says: As Perry proves here, quite a lot of the morning gave us a perfect blue sky and he’s set these fiery leaves against its coolness. I use the term fiery deliberately in this context, as the colours in the hot part of this scene really reminds of flames. Hot stuff from Perry.

Richard Burston
AJ says: Richard got lost with the fairies for some time, but it was clearly worth it. He’s gone big with the cooler side of the mission, but just look at those little red stalks that are popping out of the shot, especially against the dark background. They’re almost like little sparks. Great crop too, making the most of the shape of the leaves.

Paul Barrow
AJ says: I love how everyone has really thought about the composition and Paul has been really clever with his. We have the hot red of the in-focus leaves, and the warmth of the yellow ones that are out of focus, while he’s also opted for the blue of the sky to act as a cool background for them both to sing out of.

AJ’s images
Did I shoot anything for the mission? Erm no, actually I forgot, but I enjoyed shooting a few images while I was wandering around chatting to people. Here are a couple of my efforts from the day.

I spotted this one in the morning when the light was crisp and clear. Maybe it was because I’d been photographing elephants the week before, but the trunk reminded me of a large animal’s leg and foot.

I love shooting into the light as most of you know, so couldn’t resist this shot. The hotspot bottom-right is from sunlight bouncing off a particularly shiny leaf, and I wanted it all to stand out from the blackness behind.

And finally, below are a few behind the scenes images taken by me and others on the day to scroll through, use the click arrows, and I hope to see you all again at the next swarm outing.

Published in Camera Skills
  1. Fabulous images everyone, a great day out. Thanks again to AJ and Kate for organising it.

    Mine’s not quite an ICM it’s what happens when shooting a hi res shot on an OM1 and the wind gently catches the subject so it moves a bit!

  2. Yes a great day out was had by all, and some great images by everyone.

  3. Great images folks and as for AJ’s pic of me I have 1 word for you. Barsteward😂🤣

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