A photographic workshop on Lewis and Harris – without a computer!

I’ve just come back from a week on Lewis and Harris on a photographic workshop with Duncan McEwan. It was a great holiday, and although we did not have much sun (and no spectacular sunsets or sunrises), neither did we have much rain. We spent the first 2.5 days on Harris and the remainder of the time on Lewis.

Due to the fact that I have recently had a cataract operation I was not using the car, and spent one day getting to and from Inverness at the start and end, and most of another day on the transfer to/from Inverness and the island. Of course, using public transport also had implications in terms of how much luggage I could carry. I managed to limit myself to a smallish camera backpack and a very small Billingham bag, plus very full pockets! Fortunately Duncan lent me a tripod, so that was one less thing to carry, but the camera equipment was limited to a Sony Alpha 77 with 16-80mm and 55-200mm lenses, plus a 50mm macro, and a Sony NEX-6 with an 18-200mm lens. I had to forgo taking a computer, relying instead on an iPad 2.

I was worried about managing without a computer (even a MacBook Air would have added over 2 pounds in weight and would have been double the size of the iPad. I regard a means of backing up the images I take as essential, and typically there are sessions projecting some of the images we have taken during the workshop. Compared to a computer the iPad is limited in its storage capacity, its ability to output images to any external device (basically it has NO facility for doing this, you have to rely on the Cloud), and the software is a problem compared to using Lightroom. In the end the iPad worked out quite well – I copied the contents of each day’s SD card to the iPad, set the write protect tab on the SD card, and put it away safely afterwards. I was able to pick out 5 images from each day’s shooting fairly easily using iPhoto on the iPad, and then tune these images mainly using Snapseed. It was then possible to project these images direct from the iPad using the appropriate iPad lead connected to the projector. The real loss was that normally, using Lightroom on a laptop, I would be be doing final sorting and preparation while on the workshop, and could carry on finalising the process when I got home. With the iPad workflow, basically I had to start all over again from scratch once I got home. I did try using Photosmith on the iPad on the train journey home, doing selection and rating of the images in the iPad, but transferring the 1400 plus images from the iPad to Lightroom using Photosmith was quite slow (several hours, although not unreasonable for the amount of data), and more unfortunately somehow the star ratings managed to get lost on the iPad during the transfer, so that I still had to go back to the start in selecting the images. After this experience I feel more confident that I could make do with just an iPad on a workshop in future if I really had to, though I’d investigate further whether using Photosmith would allow me to reliably rate the images and avoid having to start again from scratch. It must also be said that the way that the iPad prevents you deleting multiple images is a real pain – I spent a lot of time individually selecting images for deletion when I got home and had safely loaded everything onto external hard discs at home.

All the camera gear I took worked satisfactorily, though I managed to lose a spare battery one day. I only used the A77 on one day, relying mainly on the NEX-6. In many respects the A77 was a nicer camera to use, with better lenses, but the size, weight and the ability to use a single lens meant that I relied more on the NEX-6. I did really miss some features of the Olympus OM-D though, which was the other system that I considered taking. I also made an alarming amount of use of the iPhone 4S, with Camera+, Oggl and Hipstamatic as the camera apps.

I’ve uploaded some images from the week into the gallery section of the web site – see the links on the right of the home page to get to the gallery, then pick the Landscape section, or you can get to the relevant section direct by clicking here.

Many thanks to Duncan McEwan for organising the workshop, and to all the other participants for making this an enjoyable week.

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About Mike Hessey

I'm a BOF (Boring Old Fellow) and MOS (Miserable Old Soul) whose main interests are photography, cycling, walking and computers. Regrettably recent problems with my legs, back and heart have reduced the cycling and walking.
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