"I can't recommend Niall and Charlotte's course enough. Not only did I gain a wealth of knowledge that took my photography to a whole new level, but when we returned to the house after hours of shooting Charlotte took care of us and fed us with excellent food and wonderful kindness and hospitality." 

/ Angeles L /

Join us on Retreat

Loch Clair dawn

The heights of torridon

An autumn landscape and macro photography retreat

in North-west scotland, 2 - 9th november, 2019

£2150

The mountains and lochs of Torridon, while less well-known than other parts of the Scottish Highlands, are none the less impressive. As well as the obvious vistas, the area contains a rich assemblage of peat-stained burns and quartzite summits, eccentric pines and golden bogs, silent lochs and pallid shores. This diversity provides the raw material for your creative work.

During the Retreat, you will learn how to:

• assemble “Chocolate Bar” collages;

• create “Colour Transects”, to add to your landscape repertoire;

• create mood at the post-production stage and;

• light paint.

Our discussion sessions will centre around how to hold the viewer’s interest as well as how these ideas might be adapted. Niall guides these but everyone is encouraged to contribute their own ideas.


Over the last 12 years, Niall has spent a lot of time in this area, shooting personal work and commissions for the government agency, Scottish Natural Heritage. It manages this, the UK’s first National Nature Reserve, founded in 1951 in recognition of its internationally important flora - principally of mosses, lichens and liverworts. It is also a redoubt of the once vast Scots pine forest that covered much of the Scottish Highlands for thousands of years but which has been reduced to a few scraps and remnants. At Beinn Eighe, we can see the work being done to re-establish a corridor of woodland from the pine-clad slopes above Loch Maree, down the length of Glen Torridon, to join with other fragments of old forest around Shieldaig.

Mountains built from Torridonian sandstone, capped by glistening quartzite, seem to fill the sky. While it’s not necessary to climb to gain a good vantage point, doing so can bring its own rewards, if the fitness of the group permits. The summits conjure with clouds rushing in from the Atlantic to produce squalls then drizzle then brilliant sunshine then hail - all within an hour. On other days it is utterly still and the dark lochs fill with reflections of emergent plants and sombre mountains. It’s as if the whole landscape is holding its breathe: a time to be quiet ourselves and get a sense of the endurance of life here.

Our base for the week will be in the village of Annat at the head of Upper Loch Torridon. Located within easy reach of many of our key locations, Ferroch House and cottage sit back from the road, overlooking the saltmarshes and over towards Ben Alligin on the north side of Loch Torridon. Each room has an en-suite bathroom, there is wi-fi throughout and a spacious lounge for tutorials and processing.

Meals

Good food is at the heart of our Retreats, from breakfast through to after-dinner chocolates, all made by Charlotte. You can see some sample menus in the brochure for this Retreat. She uses local ingredients, when they are available, in dishes that are delicious and imaginative without being fussy. Food allergies and intolerances are catered for sensitively. Expect to eat well, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And in between times too.

There will be a maximum of 6 guests on this Retreat.


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Coastlines and creativity

An early winter retreat on the hebridean Islands of Islay and jura, Scotland, 17 - 24th November, 2019

£2150

The wild coastlines of the Hebridean islands of Islay and Jura, worn ragged by the North Atlantic, provide the raw material for your creative work during this Retreat in the early winter. Expect wild seas, rocky coastlines, divine light and evenings beside a peat fire exploring photographic ideas and discussing your work. And if you're interested in visiting one the the islands' famous whisky distilleries... we'll do that too.

During the Retreat, you will learn how to:

• shoot and assemble “Chocolate Bar” collages

• photograph, process and composite white background pictures

• use post-production effects to re-enforce a particular mood or feeling in your photographs

• create Colour Transects.

These techniques open doors to creative avenues that you’ll be able to explore for years after - the same techniques that have earned Niall his reputation as an innovator. Our discussion sessions will centre around major themes in outdoor photography including style; the origin of ideas; authenticity; parallels in painting; the important players - modern and contemporary; and holding the viewer’s attention. Niall guides these but everyone is encouraged to contribute their own ideas and experience We build in time to provide feedback on your work too, and opportunity for you to identify what is working and where improvements can be made. Make sure you bring along some of your own favourite work if you would like feedback on it.

At this time of year, Islay is alive with thousands of barnacle and white fronted geese, wintering from Greenland. Few places on the mainland offer the same possibilities of spontaneous wildlife photography, not only of the geese, but of seals, hares and on Jura, red deer. Islay is renowned for its single malt whiskies and we will make a distillery visit to broaden the range of your portfolio. Depending on the fitness of the group, we have the option of a walk over wild moorland to one of the most spectacular sections of the coast, passing long abandoned homesteads .

The photography, of course, is just one part of the Retreat. Charlotte belongs to the nothing-is-too-much -trouble school of hospitality and relishes the chance to create a delightful space and lovely meals for you.

There will be a maximum of 4 guests on this Retreat.

 

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Magical alpine meadows

A mid-summer macro and landscape photography retreat in the austrian tyrol, 15 - 22nd June 2019

£2400

The Kaunergrat Nature Park, at the meeting of the Kaunertal, Pitztal and Inntal valleys, is one of the biological hotspots of central Europe, hosting over 1100 species of moths and butterflies alone - including the dramatic apollo - as well as an extraordinary range of alpine flowers. The Park also contains 84 three-thousand-metre peaks and lots of alpine farms: there is plenty to keep macro and landscape photographers busy.

During the Retreat, you will learn how to:

• shoot field studio photographs, against backlit, white backgrounds;

• composite these images into finished works;

• create Colour Transects, to add to your landscape repertoire.

Our discussion sessions will centre around how we can engage the viewer’s interest in our work using the novel approaches you are learning during the Retreat. Niall guides these but everyone is encouraged to contribute their own ideas.

Ten years ago, when he was working on assignments for Wild Wonders of Europe, Niall was dispatched to the Fließer Sonnenhänge in the Landeck district of the Austrian Tyrol, to photograph its amazing biodiversity. Indeed, these traditional hay meadows in the Kaunergrat Naturepark are considered one of Europe’s natural crown jewels on account of their rich flora and insect life. High levels of solar radiation that can lift the temperature at soil level to 70 degrees C, lime-rich soils and less than 60 cm of annual rainfall, create the ideal conditions for many species to flourish. On this Retreat, close cooperation with the staff of the Naturepark will help to ensure that we get to the best places at the right time.

Leaving the protected “sunny slopes” around the village, we steadily climb up past old Norway spruces and Arolla pines, skirt past bogs, then enter the high alpine pastures, silent except for the clanking of cow bells. This is the sort of destination that allows us to be productive without having to spend a lot of time driving around between locations. But we also give you time to relax amongst wild nature. Sometimes, just sitting and watching is what it takes to make good work.

Our base will be in the village of Arzl im Pitztal in fully-appointed apartments that were renovated to a very high standard in 2018. They are just 20 minutes from the Naturepark headquarters. Each guest room has its own bathroom and there is wifi, if you need it. It’s a great place to relax, to eat, to review your work and to enjoy fabulous mountain vistas.

There will be a maximum of 7 guests on this Retreat.

Luskentyre beach, Harris

white sand and turquoise sea.

a winter retreat to scotland's outer hebrides based on the isle of harris,   8th - 15 february 2019

£2100

The other-wordly gneiss landscapes and enchanting white beaches of Harris are a draw for photographers from around the world. But going there in winter adds another dimension of excitement with the promise of extended dawns and dusks, menacing skies and wild seas - with the reassurance of returning to a cosy house with plenty of lovely food and interesting conversation. As well as Harris, we'll show you some places we know on North Uist, Berneray and Lewis. This Retreat is especially suitable for anyone who still struggles a little with knowing the best combination of settings to use and how to compose their images. For those who want this help, we have a comprehensive programme worked out to help you master these crucial aspects of photography for once and for all. We will also give in-depth guidance on post-production.

During the Retreat we will have exclusive use of Grimisdale House which sits on a rocky peninsula overlooking Loch Steisebhat, towards the low hills of South Harris. Each room has its own facilities and there is wifi.

During the Retreat, you will learn:

• How to determine the optimal exposure for any given situation, learned in the field;

• Post-production techniques to bring out a particular mood;

• How to create and print Colour Transects;

• Advanced composition techniques.

The three-billion-year-old Lewisian gneiss that comprises South Harris is some of the most ancient rock in the world, resisting erosion as if its pacing itself for eternity. When it was formed, modern-day Harris and Lewis were part of the North American landmass, Laurentia, and the same rocks comprise the Canadian Shield and parts of Greenland today. It was only when Laurentia began to break up 65 million years ago that this area became isolated, eventually to join up with today’s Scotland. This truly is a land apart, and it feels like it.

There will be a maximum of 5 guests on this Retreat.

 

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creative outdoor photographY

burgundy, France, 11th - 18th april, 2019

£2400 / Euros 2500

Come to rural France in springtime for a wonderful creative Retreat led by widely acknowledged innovators and teachers, Niall Benvie and Willi Rolfes who will share many years professional experience so that you can advance your own work.

During the Retreat, you will learn how to:

• create Colour Transects

• shoot and assemble “Chocolate Bar” collages

• photograph, process and composite field studio pictures

Willi has developed a highly effective "method" - a way of teaching employing repetition and re-evaluation to make the sort of progress impossible on a photo tour. The discussion sessions help  focus your own ideas while learning about the work of important photographic artists and exploring questions around authenticity, style, endurance and narrative.  Armed with this formidable range of skills and knowledge, all supported by reference notes, you will be equipped to produce personal, distinctive photography.

This is done within the beautiful setting of the Château de Magny en Morvan Esate near Millay, and in the nearby Morvan Natural Regional Park.  Extensive forests, small hedged fields and plentiful wildlife. this part of France is often described as “the countryside as it used to be.” In the Morvan, the hills rise a little higher, the forest is denser and the population even sparser. The large range of butterflies, amphibians and birds is a testament to the low levels of agro-chemicals in the environment here. The landscape, while lacking the drama of the Alps or the Pyrenees, is lush and attractive and prompts a more introspective approach appropriate to this Retreat.

With some of Europe's finest natural produce on her doorstep, expect Charlotte to come up with something special in the kitchen. 

There will be a maximum of 8 guests on this Retreat.

"B and I want to thank you both for a wonderful trip.  You are both so generous with your time and energy on behalf of the guests.  Amazing organisation, brilliant driving, delicious food, friendly conversations and personal attention."

/ Anthony P /

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