With the camera in the weather kitchen

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Tamron Academy Workshop in the Azores

With the camera in the weather kitchen

The Azores lie far out in the Atlantic Ocean. Nearly 1,400 kilometres from the Portuguese mainland, they are somewhat of an secret tip for hikers and cyclists. Especially since the islands are not really known for long lasting hours of sunshine. Even more as a weather kitchen with constantly changing conditions. Thus the perfect goal for our diversified Tamron Academy Workshop. Professional photographer Gordon Below and a ten-member tour group of knowledge-thirsty photographers could not be put off by the little rain anyway. Equipped with splash-proof Tamron objectives that the participants could borrow before the trip, we went for a week to hunt for motifs on Sao Miguel, the main island of the Azores.

A slogan in the Azores states: "If you do not like the weather, then wait five minutes." And that is pretty much how the German tour group experienced the island. "Every day there were five or six distinct weather conditions. From a chilling four degrees in the fog and up to 25 degrees on the beach, everything was there. It felt as if you wandered through the entire year," says Gordon Below. But this made the trip even more exciting to photograph, since new opportunities always continued to arise: "Every 15 minutes, the same location looked different because the clouds were different, and an entirely new light mood prevailed."

The Tamron 28-300mm travel zoom objective for full frame cameras proved to be particularly helpful in the "weather kitchen". Many motifs could be covered with this extremely versatile yet compact lens. For example, when shooting in the city or also for animal and landscape photography. You are prepared for most situations with the "always-on" lens. Another advantage is that you do not have to change the objective, and thus the sensor is protected very well against the high humidity.

The tour guide also proved to be very flexible on site. Jeeps were available to the group for the first three days. This not only made driving a lot of fun, but also allowed the group to penetrate into areas inaccessible by bus. In addition, they could quickly move to a new location if the weather did not cooperate. "The Azores are a mixture of Allgäu and Sylt. On the one hand, there is the island feeling and maritime climate, but when you turn around, you still have mountains and volcanoes in the background and can quickly run up to 1,000 metres, where it looks quite different. If it was not beautiful below, we quickly drove into the mountains," says Gordon Below. In a twelve kilometre-wide crater, there are, for example, the two largest lakes in the Azores, the green Lagoa Verde and the blue Lagoa Azur. A magnificent place for fantastic nature photographs.

"You can learn much within a week," said the photographer. "First, we determined the interests and the knowledge of all participants. A common set of a core knowledge base was created by everyone in a small workshop. During the day, one could then continue helping the participants individually and give them a hand, in the literal sense of the word, with the camera settings when needed. That worked perfectly." In the evening, the results of the day were then reviewed and the plans for the next day discussed.

The themes ranged from street photography in quaint fishing villages, to scenic and wildlife shots, from macro photography to event photography. During the travel period, the biggest festival of the Azores took place in the capital Ponta Delgada. An hour-long Christian procession in which the locals marched through the streets with music. Gordon Below had a perfect lens for this type of photography in his luggage, the 10-24mm Tamron: "This wide-angle zoom works especially well in narrow streets. If you want to build a diversified atmosphere at an event like this, this lens is a dream!" But the professional Tamron 24-70 mm standard zoom with its high-intensity continuous aperture F/2.8 provided fantastic photographic memories for the procession, which lasted well into the evening.

The Tamron 150-600mm was used at the other end of the focal length range. This ultra-telephoto zoom was used at another trip highlight: whale watching. With this objective, it is possible to look at the marine mammals from nearby and photograph full frame. "However, the whales were a bit shy. A large back could been seen from time to time or a couple of fountains came out of the water. Quite a few dolphins jumped around our boat and charmed us all with their smiling faces," says Gordon Below.

The participants received specific photo tips for long exposures for water and waterfalls. For some, this was their first pictures with a tripod. In which the photography teacher encouraged his students to capture their own perspectives: "It's not about me driving to a location and showing off the greatest perspective, but to teach those interested in photography their own point of view." Apparently successful, as the results showed, and also as the participants of this harmonious group judged conclusively.

Many of the travellers were planning to create a photo book later. For this, Gordon Below gave the tip to tell a story with pictures. Thus, not only to photograph the absolute highlights, but even the smallest possible details. "The procession is great. But also photographing the workers who unscrew the light bulbs or the spectators who rejoice. These reflect the entire feeling. So you can convey a much better impression of what you have experienced than if you only shoot the apparent highlights. That was an aha-effect for the many participants," says the experienced professional photographer.

The fact that, in this trip, everyone could be devoted to his photo hobby without time pressure and that the trainer was responsive to the individual needs was rated very positively by the participants. After all, the trip was supposed to offer some recreation and be the perfect getaway. Albeit with a clear focus, as this anecdote from participant Steffi Böing describes: "Essentially, the camera was so good that never left our hands. A fellow traveller thus demonstrated her extreme multi-tasking ability by quickly photographing the thieving gulls in the harbour with her right hand, and with a biscuit in her mouth and wineglass and cheese in her left hand."

About the author: Gordon Below

Gordon Below (41) has worked as a photographer for 25 years. He runs a photo studio in Herrenberg near Tübingen. His main themes are classic portrait photography, wedding photography and reportage. For the past few years, he has been teaching photography enthusiasts in order to pass on his expertise. It is important for him to convey that photography is not created on the computer, but is primarily based on work with the camera.

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