February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news

Spring is almost here (honest!)

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. Grey seal on Teignmouth beach.
A Grey Seal on the beach at Teignmouth, Devon, Great Britain.

Spring photography is almost possible

Welcome to the February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news, the first time our monthly newsletter has been posted on the blog. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

It may not feel like it right now, but spring is kicking off all around us, from longer days, to more birdsong, to the first daffodils and snowdrops.

So, if you’ve forgotten where you put your camera during winter lockdown, it’s time to hunt around, dig it out and get ready for a few photo shoots. Even if Covid restrictions continue, you should be able to get out and about in your local area, with reasonable seclusion, to photograph many of the burgeoning signs of spring.

The above Grey Seal photo, while hardly a harbinger of spring, is nevertheless an indicator of just what luck you can have with subject matter close to home. This lone male was photographed last week, inside the harbour at Teignmouth, just a couple of miles from my home.

While you’re thinking about what you might be photographing this spring, you can find the following items in this month’s newsletter:

January’s talk can now be watched online

February’s talk: Low Light Photography

Writing reviews of Nigel Hicks Photography: and getting a discount voucher

This year’s photography workshops

Would you like to have our regular newsletters sent straight to your inbox? To sign up for our mailing list click on the link below.

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. January's Focus talk.

Watch January’s Focus talk online any time

My January talk, Focus: the third critical component of successful photography, went ahead live on the 27th of the month. The talk revolved around the central idea that good focus is much more than just getting your subject sharp, although of course that is critical. It also involves important decisions about how much of the rest of the image should be sharp too, whether that be absolutely all of it, or just a thin slice, for example.

The implications of this, and the use of some techniques, were illustrated for wide-angle landscapes, telephoto portraiture, wildlife, interiors, and macro photography. The use of wide-angle or telephoto lens, narrow or wide-open lens aperture was described as an essential part of controlling depth of field. As a finale, the possible use of image stacking in Photoshop – that is. shooting a series of identical images that are focussed at slightly different points in the view, and then blending them together in the computer- was introduced.

A video of the whole talk can now be watched online. Click the link below to see it.

February’s talk: Low Light Photography

February 2021 Nigel Hicks Photography news. Clifton Suspension Bridge at dusk, Bristol.

February’s online talk is already looming on the horizon, scheduled to be held on:

Wed 24th Feb, at 8pm

Covering low light photography, in this talk I’ll introduce a range of techniques that can be applied in a variety of low light situations, including: Dark stormy days; Rural, urban and coastal landscapes at sunset; Photography at dusk; Photography at night: events, from carnivals to fireworks; Photography at night: the night sky. Not surprisingly, this talk will give only a general introduction to each of these, as any of them could easily be the subject of a whole talk by themselves (and perhaps will be in the future!), but this should give you pointers to a range of generally applicable techniques.

As always, this talk will be completely free to join. There is now a Donation button on the talks’ registration page, so if you feel like contributing to my costs that would be wonderful. But you should feel no compulsion.

To register for this talk, and the subsequent one (on 24th March, Wildlife Photography), click on the link below, and then fill in and submit the form.

I’ll look forward to seeing you online!

Writing reviews for my photography services

As previewed in my last newsletter, I now have an up-to-date system for reviews of my photography services up and running on the Nigel Hicks Photography website.

So if you’ve ever received any of my services, whether a photography course or tour, a talk (online or in person), or some commercial photography, then I’d be delighted if you would like to write a review.

These photography service reviews run separately from those for my books, prints and cards: for these you need to go to each product in the Products part of the website.

Discount coupon reward

As a big thankyou I’m giving a 10% discount voucher, for use anywhere on the Nigel Hicks Photography website, to anyone who writes a review: 20% if you write more than one. Each coupon will be valid until 30th June, and can be used just once.


To write a photography service review click on the link below.

A Goldfinch on a blackthorn tree in spring flower.

This year’s photography workshops

With optimism slowly growing about our future and the kind of year 2021 is likely to be, I feel increasingly hopeful about the possibility of being able to run at least most of my workshops this year.

This year’s programme is scheduled to kick off on 21st March with Low Light Photography, in Exmouth. Admittedly, there is still some doubt as to whether this course will be able to go ahead – inevitably a lot hinges on how much longer lockdown lasts, and what any post-lockdown tier restrictions are likely to be like. As you can imagine, I’m watching this closely, but I won’t make a firm decision until nearer the date. 

Regardless of whether or not this spring low light course has to be shelved, I’m considering introducing a low light course in November, if I can find the right date (viz a viz sunset, low tide and moon times). So, if you want to come on a low light photography course but are nervous about March, keep a look out for an autumn event.

Subsequent courses

The second course this spring is not until 17th April, South Devon Coastal Photography, at Bantham and Bigbury, not surprisingly on the coast of south Devon. I’m quite optimistic this will be able to go ahead, along with all courses that follow.

The line-up for all of this year’s photography workshops is:

21st March; Low Light Photography, Exmouth, Devon.

17th April; South Devon Coastal Photography, Bantham and Bigbury, Devon.

24th April; Wildlife Photography, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

16th May; Architecture and Travel Photography, Bath, Bath and NE Somerset.

22nd May; Exmoor in Spring; Tarr Steps and Lynton, Somerset and Devon.

29th May; Dartmoor in Spring, Dartmoor National Park, Devon.

2nd Oct; Jurassic Coast Photography, Lyme Regis and Charmouth, Dorset.

16th Oct; Exmoor in Autumn, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

23rd Oct; Wildlife Photography, Exmoor National Park, Somerset and Devon.

30th Oct, Dartmoor in Autumn, Dartmoor National Park, Devon.



I hope you’ll like some of these courses and will decide to give yourself something to look forward to by booking onto any of them.

Refunds and deferrments

Rest assured that, if you are booked onto a course that has to be postponed or cancelled, then as with last year, you will have a full range of options, namely:

  • To accept the new date (for a postponed course);
  • To transfer to another course of your choosing;
  • Simply to defer your booking to an as-yet undefined future event;
  • Have a full refund.

Hopefully, things won’t come to this, but I want to put your mind at rest, that you will not lose any money you’ve paid.

To get all the details of the workshops programme, click on the link below:

A photography course shooting the sunset

Would you like to have our newsletters sent straight to your inbox? To join our mailing list click on the link below:

Back to top

Focus: the third critical component in successful photography

An online photography talk about the critical role of good focussing in great photography

Focus: the third critical component in successful photography was the subject of my first online photography talk of 2021. I have called it the third critical component because focus forms a holy trinity with composition and lighting. All three must come together for any photograph to have a chance of being successful, dare I say even great. If any one of these three elements is substandard in any photo then that image will be a failure.

Watch this talk here

This talk was recorded, and so you can watch it here now. Just click on the embedded link below. The talk is 40 minutes long, and I really hope you enjoy it.

What does this talk contain?

It may seem blindingly obvious, of course, to say that the main subject of a photo needs to be sharply in focus for that photo to be a success. However, correct focussing goes well beyond just this limited definition.

There are many other issues to consider, such as:

  • Does the entire image need to be sharp, not just the main subject, as is often the case with landscape photography?
  • Or would it be better, for example, to have the background blurred, enabling the sharply in-focus subject to ‘pop out’ of the picture, such as is common in portrait or wildlife photography?
  • Perhaps you need to have just one small part of the photo sharp (containing the main subject) and everything else blurred, ensuring that attention is directed just to this area of the frame;
  • What about blurred motion as the main subject? Does this need to be sharply in-focus even though it is blurred anyway as a result of movement?
Focus: the third critical component

Techniques and technologies

What all the above points cover is the subject of depth of field, and the need to control this in order to control just how much of any photo is sharp.

Depth of field is the amount of an image that is in focus from its nearest point (to the photographer) to its furthest point. This can be varied in a number of ways, primarily:

  • A wide-angle lens naturally has a bigger depth of field than a telephoto lens;
  • A narrow lens aperture (ie a high f-number, eg f/16) creates a bigger depth of field than a wide open aperture (ie a low f-number, eg f/5.6).

So, if you use a wide-angle lens shut down to a narrow aperture you will have a big depth of field, potentially ranging from shortly in front of the camera all the way to the horizon. This is commonly used in landscape photography, though also in other photographic genres.

On the other hand, if you use a telephoto lens with a wide-open aperture you will have a very small depth of field, perhaps a metre or less. This is a technique commonly used in portrait and wildlife photography to ensure the face really ‘pops out’ from its background and commands the viewer’s attention.

As the subject-to-camera distance decreases, perhaps once it is less than about 10 metres, then the depth of field starts to decrease for any lens and any lens aperture. Finally, when you get down to macro photography, such as of butterflies, the depth of field even at a very narrow lens aperture is quite tiny, usually no more than about 1 cm or thereabouts.

Focus: the third critical component

Further content

During the talk I show a range of images that illustrate the above points about depth of field. The final third of my talk covers some practical examples, in which I have deliberately taken sets of photos at different lens apertures and focussing distances, to illustrate how changing these, along with lens focal-lengths, can have a dramatic impact on the type of image that results.

The final section looks at the problems of macro photography and the tiny depth of field available here. In particular I introduce the technique of focus-stacking: taking a series shots focussed at different points, and then blending them together in the computer post-photography.

Overall, the talk gives a tour of the techniques and skills of good focussing, taking it well beyond the simple process of just getting the subject sharp. Instead, the aim should be to control the depth of field in an image through appropriate use of lens focal length and aperture to produce an image that works for the particular subject and its surroundings.

Focus: the third critical component

Find out more about my talks

I hope you enjoy watching this talk. If you’d like to find out more about my talks click on the links below, where you’ll be able to watch recordings of earlier talks, and sign up for some of my upcoming talks.

Each of my talks takes place on a Wednesday evening, once a month, and are free to attend.

I’ll look forward to seeing you online.

Back to top

Stunning Landscape Photography

Nigel’s fourth online photography talk was held on 9th December 2020

My December 2020 photography talk was held live on 9th December, entitled Stunning Landscape Photography. Using my own photography, this was an exploration and overview of the main types of landscape photography and some of the techniques used to capture some stunning landscape images.

Watch the recorded Stunning Landscape Photography talk here

You can watch the whole talk here. Simply click on the photo to start the video. Naturally, I hope you’ll like the talk, and of course feel free to subscribe to my channel.

About the talk

‘Genres’ of landscape photography

The talk started off with a brief repetition of a previous talk by saying that the best images come about as a result of simple compositions, ones with a single, strong subject that dominates the frame, unimpeded by confusing clutter or competition from other potential subjects.

It then moved on to an overview of the main categories of landscape photography, summarised as:

  • Wholly natural landscapes
  • Landscapes that contain people as secondary, supporting elements
  • Views that contain buildings or other manmade structures as secondary, supporting elements
  • Generic landscape images, views or details that could be just about anywhere and which convey wholly beauty and/or mood
  • Views of famous locations but which are more than just travel shots, containing strong mood and beauty elements.
Stunning landscape photography

Some technical stuff

I then went on to cover the one piece of kit that is essential to landscape photography but which many people overlook: neutral density graduated filters, usually abbreviated to just ND grads.

I introduced what they look like and what types are available, as well as showing how they fit onto a camera. Their use in landscape photography was then summarised using before-and-after photography.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I covered why it is important to use them. The first reason is to overcome the digital sensor’s inability to see as large a contrast range as the human eye can, changing disappointing images into views that look every bit as beautiful as the original scene did to the eye.

The second reason can be to enhance the drama of a sky, particularly on a stormy day, for example turning a moderately grey, cloud-strewn sky into an angry cauldron of roaring clouds!

Stunning landscape photography

A range of landscape environments

The second half of the talk covered stunning landscape photography in a range of environments, which included:

  • The sea and coastline
  • Woodlands and forests
  • Moorlands
  • Rivers and waterfalls

Photographs shot in these environments showed the creative power of photographing into the light, or at least side-on, and particularly with the use of an ND grad filter. Such views were commonly shot very early or very late in the day when the sun was low, though I also demonstrated the use of a high tropical sun.

When talking about photography of water, particularly moving water, I compared and contrasted the techniques and results of slow shutter speed to blur movement, versus a fast shutter speed to freeze it. When done well, the results give very different moods and tell very different stories.

When it came to photography in woodlands, I introduced the idea that it is so much easier to photograph in flat light, such as under cloudy skies or in fog, in order to have the woodland composition shown off to its best. In addition, I showed the importance of using clearings created by such items as streams to enable you to step back from the chaos of the trees and so create meaningful compositions.

Stunning landscape photography

Panoramics introduced

In the final few minutes of the talk I introduced panoramic photography, firstly as created simply by cropping a standared image into a narrow rectangle. My main approach, however, was the shooting of multiple images followed by stitching in Photoshop. This was illustrated with a number of images that were a mix of coastal, mountain and urban views.

Stunning landscape photography

Back to top

Light in Photography

The critical role of light in creating great photography

The role of light in photography.

My November 2020 photography talk (which went ahead online on 11th November) explored the critical role of light in photography. It may seem blindingly obvious that light is an essential ingredient in any kind of photography. However, the essential point is not light per se, but the type and quality of the light used, coupled most importantly with how the photographer makes use of that light.

A recording of this talk is now online, and you can watch it by clicking on the embedded link further down this page.

An exploration of the type and quality of light in photography

In this talk I initially introduce the very nature of light, as a part of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. I then cover some terminology used in the technical description of light, including the colour temperature scale and how this is expressed in our daily lives in terms of types of light sources encountered.

The main part of the talk covers an exploration of what is meant by the type and quality of light, specifically as it applies to natural light. This ranges from consideration of the angle of the light, relative to both the subject and the photographer, resulting in three basic angles: front lighting, side lighting and back-lighting (which may or may not result in your subject being a silhouette).

These angles are then of course further influenced by the sun’s height in the sky, something that impacts on the length and strength of shadows, and the colour temperature of the light delivered.

For the latter, this results in white light during sunshine in the middle of the day, but very warm light, rich in red, shortly after sunrise or before sunset, with cold blue-rich light in shadows and at dawn and dusk.

Sunrise on Mte Fitzroy, Patagonia, Argentina. The role of light in photography.

The talk also explores the role of flat, sunless light, in which the lack of shadows and highlights is helpful in photography of such subjects as details, woodlands and people.

Throughout the talk, I use my own photography to illustrate my main points, showcasing the critical role of natural light in photography, and most especially in the creation of great photography.

Watch the recorded talk here

To watch this talk click on the embedded link below.

Naturally, I really hope you like this talk.

Light and my programme of photography talks

This talk covering the role of light in photography forms just one part of my programme of photography talks, following on from my ealier talks Goals in Photography and Photographic Composition: the critical base of all great imagery.

The programme continues, the next talk being Stunning Landscape Photography, which will be live online at 8pm on 9th December. The talks will continue in the New Year with a further programme which will be published shortly.

To find out more about my talks and to register for the 9th December talk, click on the link below.

Back to top

Photographic Composition

The critical base of all great imagery

Photographic composition: an online talk by Nigel Hicks.

An online photography talk by Nigel

The second of my new series of online talks was held on 14th October 2020, covering photographic composition. As I explained in the talk, the critical base for all great imagery, photographic composition lies at the heart of all photography. This is so whether we’re talking about travel, landscape, nature, people or architectural photography.

A recording of the talk is now available to view at any time, both on You Tube and in this blog. To see the video, just scroll further down this page.

Photographic composition: an outline of the talk

I covered many of the main aspects to consider when creating a photographic composition, much of it hinging around the double mantra ‘Keep It Simple: Less is More’. This essentially covers the need to ensure that each image contains just one main subject that dominates the image frame, with the rest of the image free of clutter and distracting or competing elements.

I used my own photography throughout the talk to illustrate my main points, dissecting a number of images to illustrate how the various components worked together to support the main subject. These included such processes as the use of diagonals both to direct attention towards the main subject, and very simple backgrounds to enable the subject to dominate the frame.

Photographic composition: analysis of a palm tree image.

Watch the recorded photographic composition talk here

The full 37-minute talk can be viewed here. To watch it at full screen, simply click on the full-screen icon in the bottom right. If watching it full screen, make sure you are watching it in HD format.

I hope you enjoy the talk!

Looking beyond photographic composition

Of course, great photographic composition is absolutely fundamental to quality photography. A badly composed image will always be a bad photograph no matter what else is done to the image.

However, composition is not the only prerequisite to the creation of great imagery. A second component is also light. Every great composition needs the right light be make it almost literally shine. This will show the subject of the photography off to its best, creating an image with the greatest impact.

The role of natural light in photography is the subject of my third talk, which will be held on 11th November. This talk will then published online shortly after that. Keep an eye out for its appearance!

Meanwhile, I hope you’ll enjoy this talk. In addition, you can also see the previous talk, Goals in Photography, which was held in September, by clicking on the link below.

Photographic composition: an apartment building in evening sunlight.

Back to top