'A Zest for Life' Competition
In June 2007, we ran a photographic competition in the Wessex Muse Magazine, a publication spotlighting creative talent in the Wessex region of the UK. The prize was a 3-day, 4-night workshop holiday for the winner and one guest.
As we are based in Andalucia, the home of flamenco, tapas and fiesta where people live life to the full, it seemed fitting to base this competition on 'A Zest for Life'. The entrants were asked to submit a photograph capturing the essence of this phrase - and did they just!
The winner, Michelle Lindebringhs, was picked from the tremendous array of inspiring imagery we received. Her vibrant and exciting photograph freezing an invigorating moment onboard a yacht is shown on the right.
Michelle and friend Sydney came and enjoyed the Andalucian Photography Workshop experience. Sydney subsequently wrote a review of their trip that was published in the November 2007 edition of the Wessex Muse Magazine.
Here's the review...
I was the lucky 'plus one', invited to join my friend, Michelle Lindebringhs, on a three day/four night photography holiday she had won through a recent competition in the Wessex Muse magazine called 'Zest for Life'. We were incredulous for the whole month before our departure, but off we went. We boarded our flight to Granada mostly with excited anticipation but also with a dash of healthy scepticism... What'll be the catch? When will we get stung for hidden extras? What kind of personality might our teacher be? Last year I had the desperate experience of photography classes with an instructor who managed to quash all enthusiasm I had for learning by boring me stupid. The other dreaded type of teacher, we agreed, would be the patronising, condescending kind. Still, the revelations ahead gave the otherwise uneventful flight a bit of an edge!
We were delighted by our VIP reception at the airport - I'd always envied those passengers with name card and carriage a-waiting. Alex Wolfe-Warman appeared more senior and business-like in his photo on the website, but in the flesh his warm, casual greeting put us at ease straight away. We loaded up the car with a hefty collection of cameras, luggage and a laptop and began our chatty drive to Alhama de Granada, 53km up in the mountains, south west of Granada.
As we drove we discussed teaching styles and what we were hoping to achieve - Alex reassured us, first off, there's no such thing as a silly question and that he can indulge our photo leanings whatever they may be; he encourages experimentalism, enthusiasm, and resonated with our 'film is best, computer causes PMT' mentality. He understood that we want to draw out our own styles and equally wrestle with the techie necessities of the digital photo world. He promised to help us come to appreciate and navigate digital photography, both with the camera and on computer. This was an immense relief! It was also a revelation to discover that Alex has much wider experience and interests than landscapes (follow the link from the holiday website to Alex's gallery). He offers tailor-made tuition to suit every style and ability, delivering highly personalised courses to a maximum group of six.
From the plane the scenery looked barren and uninspiring, but after driving through predictably drab, industrial, flat stuff outside of Granada, the hills began. As we climbed towards Alhama the olive trees, shadows, sweeping lines, and orange earth colours surprised us with aesthetic appeal. Alhama itself is an ancient spa town on the edge of a gorge, typical of Andalucia with a 16th century church overlooking whitewashed houses that tumble away down the hill.
Alex drove us through the maze of the old Moorish quarter and eventually we parked up and met Liz (just extricated from the current fiesta) who manages the traditional old town house we were to stay in. This was the next possible hiccup of our holiday (still sceptical and wondering where the catch would be). Would it be nothing like the website pictures? Would it be rammed with other holiday-makers? Would we be enticed into a make-over studio, get plied with wine and then endure a hard sell of our pseudo-model photos, etc, etc. We walked away from the road, up and down narrow, cobbled lanes and shortly arrived at the door of a modest looking fascia. However, the introductory tour revealed five higgledy-piggledy floors of comfortable, rustic interior including a kitchen courtyard and roof terrace overlooking ancient tiled rooftops and the church. We had the pick of four bedrooms and breakfast delivered in the morning; this is too good to be true! Alex and Liz left us in the house for a few hours to assimilate. Our squeals of delight must have been heard streets away as we raced with our complimentary bottle of wine to the roof terrace. Glug!
The next three days of photo tuition, evening tapas and repartee in Bar Ochoa (the best bar ever!) were a work/play perfect mix. Although the Alhambra Palace is a spectacular photographers' feast nearby, it wasn't the highlight by any means. We had endless photo
material on the doorstep; the mountains, gorges, ruins, hot springs, lakes, and even ourselves. Alex has an easy way of explaining camera functions and theory that we had both found overwhelming before and at the same time was able to challenge us intuitively in areas we found difficult - like portraits or interiors. And when the heat or evening beat us indoors, the computer learning got a look in.
On our reluctant departure we both felt we'd made impressive progress. I for one had at last made the transition from auto-function happy-snapper to a consciously competent DSLR photographer. More importantly though, we both came back having really enjoyed learning, full of enthusiasm to keep improving, and a belief that we've got some potential worth pursuing! We will definitely be going again...
Photo credit (from left - right):
images 1 & 3, Sydney Anstee
images 2 & 4, Michelle Lindebringhs
Reproduced courtesy of Wessex Muse Magazine